Selectionist and evolutionary approaches to brain function: a critical appraisal

Fernando, Chrisantha, Szathmary, Eors and Husbands, Phil (2012) Selectionist and evolutionary approaches to brain function: a critical appraisal. Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, 6 (24). pp. 1-28. ISSN 1662-5188

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Abstract

We consider approaches to brain dynamics and function that have been claimed to be Darwinian. These include Edelman’s theory of neuronal group selection, Changeux’s theory of synaptic selection and selective stabilization of pre-representations, Seung’s Darwinian synapse, Loewenstein’s synaptic melioration, Adam’s selfish synapse and Calvin’s replicating activity patterns. Except for the last two, the proposed mechanisms are selectionist but not truly Darwinian, because no replicators with information transfer to copies and hereditary variation can be identified in them. All of them fit, however, a generalized selectionist framework conforming to the picture of Price’s covariance formulation, which deliberately was not specific even to selection in biology, and therefore does not imply an algorithmic picture of biological evolution. Bayesian models and reinforcement learning are formally in agreement with selection dynamics. A classification of search algorithms is shown to include Darwinian replicators (evolutionary units with multiplication, heredity and variability) as the most powerful mechanism for search in a sparsely occupied search space. Examples are given of cases where parallel competitive search with information transfer among the units is more efficient than search without information transfer between units. Finally, we review our recent attempts to construct and analyze simple models of true Darwinian evolutionary units in the brain in terms of connectivity and activity copying of neuronal groups. Although none of the proposed neuronal replicators include miraculous mechanisms, their identification remains a challenge but also a great promise.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: neural Darwinism, neuronal group selection, neuronal replicator hypothesis, Darwinian neurodynamics, Izhikevich spiking networks, causal inference, price equation, hill-climbers
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA0075 Electronic computers. Computer science
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0301 Biology > QH0359 Evolution
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH0301 Biology
Q Science > QP Physiology > QP0351 Neurophysiology and neuropsychology
Depositing User: Phil Husbands
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2012 10:47
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2017 05:41
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/40208

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