[Bmi] BMI debate: Can we start to look at the brain-mind from the entire system point of view?

Ali Minai minaiaa at gmail.com
Thu Oct 20 15:02:17 EDT 2011


I think that a developmental perspective is crucial if we're ever going to
understand how the mind emerges from the brain, or how the brain-body system
works. In fact, I would say that we have to include not only development but
also evolution - not only how the zygote develops into a functional animal,
but also how simple animals evolve into animals with more complex
functionality by using the same modules in myriad ways. I have argued (and
am writing a book chapter on this) that the "evo-devo" approach needs to be
extended into the third dimension of mental function - asking "what
systematic evolutionary and developmental processes allow the emergence of a
system capable of mental function. Just as we have the idea of
"evolvability", so there must be an equivalent idea of "mentability" (or
some such word) that distinguishes systems capable of mental function from
those incapable of this. This should then be connected to development and

All this said, I think that these types of global theoretical approaches
complement rather than replace the focused study of specific subsystems like
the hippocampus. Of course, I say this as someone who has worked on such
systems (including the hippocampus, where Dave's work has been a major
influence for me). Both global and parcellated investigations contribute to
our understanding. To insist on one or the other would just be an
ideological choice.



On Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 2:07 PM, Juyang Weng <weng at cse.msu.edu> wrote:

>  Dear all:
> After talking to some of my colleagues, we here kick of a BMI debate via
> this email on bmi at lists.cse.msu.edu.
> Many of you on this anonymous list told me that they are interested and
> want to be posted.  However, we will use this
> anonymous list sparely.   If you want to keep posted about this debate and
> other BMI activities, sign on bmi mailing list
> at http://lists.cse.msu.edu/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/bmi or simply Google
> it with key words like "BMI mailing list MSU".
> Once you receive email from the mailing list, you can post simply via
> reply.   BMI mailing list is a moderated list to avoid
> unrelated emails.  If there are sufficient interest, BMI might host a live
> web debate in a few weeks.  Post your views!
> The following email I sent to Dave Touretzky is the kick-off for the BMI
> debates.  I will provide some interesting examples soon.
> On 10/20/11 12:59 PM, Juyang Weng wrote:
> Hi Dave,
> I read some of your papers about hippocampus, which are very interesting.
> Let me inject some basic but probably very controversial ideas you probably
> will reject.  If you do not mind, I will post this discussion to the BMI
> mailing list.   The main purpose is to attract more talented researchers to
> this important brain-mind subject.
> How about looking at the brain from a top system point of view?  I believe
> that top (but detailed) theory is powerful, since the brain basically does
> signal processing (not in the traditional sense).   Maybe with this view,
> our future design of experiments could be  more productive?  Let me start
> from one example:
> One of your papers is "Synaptic Learning Models of Map Separation in the
> Hippocampus", *Neurocomputing*, *32*:379-384, 2000.   The co-authors
> wrote: "If the perforant path projection to CA3 functions as a pattern
> completion mechanism, and the DG projection via the mossy fibers performs
> pattern separation (O'Reilly and McClelland, 1994), then ..."
> My new perspectives about the brain benefited from such local views, but I
> think that such local views can also benefit from the entire brain-mind
> point of view, in the sense of a giant Finite Automaton (FA).   This brain
> FA is not handcrafted, but rather developed, since all phenotypes emerge
> from a single cell (zygote).   So, I model such a developmental FA as the
> Developmental Network (DN).  Then, the Hippocampus is simply a very small
> part of a giant DN.  According to how the DN works, I predict the
> following:  If we focus on a small part (e.g., Hippocampus) of this DN, we
> definitely will get hopelessly lost, like a hiker in a forest without a
> global map.   He can see some local phenomena from where he stands, but he
> did not see the entire forest.
> Focused, per-phenomenon discoveries have been prevailing in the brain
> science literature in the modern science, with few exceptions (Charles
> Darwin is one).  This is probably because only such papers can be accepted
> and funded in the modern time.  Although those phenomena are useful, they
> are piece meals.  Now, there seem to have enough pieces to put the grand
> puzzle together.  I have established what a DN can do in real time, by
> modeling the brain-mind from the entire FA (DN) point of view.  Since all
> pieces of DN seem to fit what we know about the brain science, the brain
> should not be less efficient than a DN.
> You can say that this is just fantasy, but I have a series of rigorous
> proofs.
> Daniel M. Wolpert said at SfN 2009 that the over 1400-page long volume of
> "Principles of Neural Science" by Kandel et al. could be much condensed if
> we could model the entire brain in computational theory.   I hope that the
> DN theory can help that condensing process.
> A major infrastructure problem is that what I talked about above spans at
> least 6 disciplines.   Meaningful conversations are extremely difficult.  If
> you feel angry or insulted by my above text, I feel that it is partially
> because of this huge divide.
> I am giving a CC to Jay, as his work was cited.
> Best regards,
> -John
> -John
> --
> --
> Juyang (John) Weng, Professor
> Department of Computer Science and Engineering
> MSU Cognitive Science Program and MSU Neuroscience Program
> 3115 Engineering Building
> Michigan State University
> East Lansing, MI 48824 USA
> Tel: 517-353-4388
> Fax: 517-432-1061
> Email: weng at cse.msu.edu
> URL: http://www.cse.msu.edu/~weng/
> ----------------------------------------------

Ali A. Minai, Ph.D.
Complex Adaptive Systems Lab
School of Electronic & Computing Systems
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0030

Phone: (513) 556-4783
Fax: (513) 556-7326
Email: Ali.Minai at uc.edu
          minaiaa at gmail.com

WWW: http://www.ece.uc.edu/~aminai/
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