The brain as a probabilistic transducer: an evolutionarily plausible network architecture for knowledge representation, computation, and behavior

by   Joseph Y. Halpern, et al.

We offer a general theoretical framework for brain and behavior that is evolutionarily and computationally plausible. The brain in our abstract model is a network of nodes and edges. Although it has some similarities to standard neural network models, as we show, there are some significant differences. Both nodes and edges in our network have weights and activation levels. They act as probabilistic transducers that use a set of relatively simple rules to determine how activation levels and weights are affected by input, generate output, and affect each other. We show that these simple rules enable a learning process that allows the network to represent increasingly complex knowledge, and simultaneously to act as a computing device that facilitates planning, decision-making, and the execution of behavior. By specifying the innate (genetic) components of the network, we show how evolution could endow the network with initial adaptive rules and goals that are then enriched through learning. We demonstrate how the developing structure of the network (which determines what the brain can do and how well) is critically affected by the co-evolved coordination between the mechanisms affecting the distribution of data input and those determining the learning parameters (used in the programs run by nodes and edges). Finally, we consider how the model accounts for various findings in the field of learning and decision making, how it can address some challenging problems in mind and behavior, such as those related to setting goals and self-control, and how it can help understand some cognitive disorders.


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