Abstract: Living systems sense their physical environment and process this information to interact back with the environment. This continual loop that iterates between sensing, computation and action drives the emergence of complex behaviors. Physics plays a key role in this sensorimotor loop by imposing constraints on all of its basic elements, and long-standing efforts in biological physics have proved fruitful in highlighting these physical constraints across organismal scales. An enduring challenge is to explain the diversity of behaviors we observe in nature, which are generated by deceptively simple rules for adaptation that act on enormously complex systems. I will present recent work from microbial evolution and rodent navigation that highlights quantitative approaches for resolving this challenge and show how physics-inspired models can explain emergent phenomena in biological learning.