[Comp-neuro] Modelling Philosophy

Allan Coop allan.coop at gmail.com
Thu Aug 21 15:11:51 CEST 2008

Seeing as we are on this track I would refer everyone to an even more
wonderful book by William Grey Walter (
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Grey_Walter) *The Living Brain*, New York
(1953) . A remarkable achievement for the time . . .  Two radio valves, a
photo diode and a couple of relays and he demonstrated what he claimed were
the seven fundamental properties of animal behavior. Just for the record
from the wikipedia article "In the 1960s Walter also went on to discover the
*contingent negative
* (CNV) effect (or *readiness
*) whereby a negative spike of electrical activity appears in the
brain<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain>half a second prior to a
person being consciously aware of movements that he
is about to make. Intriguingly, this effect brings into question the very
notion of consciousness <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness> or free
will <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_will> . . .".

Thanks for the continued discussion everyone,

On Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 11:23 AM, james bower <bower at uthscsa.edu> wrote:

> That's great -- I like the idea of the "sense of free will", which, of
> course, I have too.
> The truth, on the other hand is likely something else.
> I would refer everyone to the wonderful book by Valentino Braitenberg
> titled "Vehicles: experiments in synthetic psychology" whose early chapters
> make an important point about how easy it is to deceive the brain into
> imagining complexity where there isn't any -- the opposite also applies of
> course.  The conclusion again -- one has to reference the actual physical
> system that generates the behavior to know what is really going on.
> Jim
> On Aug 20, 2008, at 2:52 AM, Harry Erwin wrote:
>  I'm concerned with modelling M-systems. Conceptually for me, an M-system
>> is a system that maintains a model of its environment and uses that model to
>> assess the current value of actions leading to future rewards and penalties.
>> Those assessments are used to choose actions following some rule. The model
>> of the environment need only have sufficient detail to support action
>> assessment, and there are a number of possible ways that multiple rewards
>> and penalties might be integrated into the value of an action.
>> Free-living eukaryotic cells embody M-systems, as do primitive neurons in
>> nerve nets, and as do brains. (My standard example of an M-system is an
>> echolocating bat hunting its dinner.) The complexity of an M-system seems to
>> reflect a number of evolutionary processes concerned with the number and
>> types of actions evaluated, how multiple rewards and penalties are
>> integrated into the value of an action, how actions are chosen, and whether
>> actions are integrated into plans. In humans, the mind (a complex M-system)
>> appears to engage in a dialogue with the future to value actions and plans,
>> and that loopy interaction with a space of possible futures that responds
>> actively to plans and actions underlies the sense of free will.
>> I prefer to model brains as systems of neurone models. I do this because I
>> don't think we understand M-systems well enough to model them in the
>> abstract. By sticking fairly close to the biology and considering
>> evolutionary processes, I think we are sufficiently constrained by reality
>> to characterise at least some M-systems.
>> --
>> "an academic who listens to pleas of convenience before publishing his
>> research risks calling into doubt the whole of his determination to find the
>> truth." (Russell 1993)
>> Harry Erwin
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> ==================================
> Dr. James M. Bower Ph.D.
> Professor of Computational Neuroscience
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Allan D. Coop, PhD

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