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

leonid lperl at rcn.com
Thu Oct 20 16:45:48 EDT 2011

Hello to everybody
Views from the top and views from the bottom must be combined. Physics is a
successful science because it concentrates on fundamental principles, and
then proceeds to experimentally verifiable predictions. There are first
principles operating in the mind and brain. There are first principles at
every level of organization of matter. For the brain-mind I would list few:
- hierarchical organization of mental representations
- bottom-up and top-down signal interactions
- instinctual drives measuring vital organismic parameters and communicating
results to decision-making mechanisms
- emotions serving as neural signals communicating (as above) satisfaction
or dissatisfaction of instinctual drives
(the two principles above are discovered by Grossberg-Levine theory)
- the most important instinctual drive is the "instinct for knowledge." It
drives matching of bottom-up and top-down signals so that mental
representations are similar to reality (it is more important than survival
or procreation, because survival is not possible without perception and
- "vague-to-crisp" process evolves mental representations to match reality,
this is the operation of the instinct for knowledge, which overcomes
exponential complexity
- special emotions correspond to the knowledge instinct; these are not
basic, but aesthetic emotions explaining higher human cognitive abilities
from understanding and cognition of objects an situations to abstract
concepts, and higher up to "mysterious" meanings of life and emotions of the
- we need to understand the difference between language and cognitive
representations, and how they interact
- how the hierarchy of cognition is learned by every human child
- what are emotions of cognitive dissonances, and how human evolution
overcame these (most likely - music)
- some of the above are described by mathematical models - this is a must
- some of the above is experimentally confirmed - this is a must
What did I miss ? (possibly something) - please add fundamental laws,
explaining a lot from few assumptions, mathematical models of these
processes making experimental predictions, and finally experimental tests of
all of the above.


From: Juyang Weng [mailto:weng at cse.msu.edu] 
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2011 2:08 PM
To: bmilist
Subject: BMI debate: Can we start to look at the brain-mind from the entire
system point of view?

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

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,





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/



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