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CMS & CNS Seminar

Monday, May 2, 2016
12:00pm to 1:00pm
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Annenberg 105
The brain architecture of embodied action: The Distributed Adaptive Control Theory of decisions at a choice point
Paul F.M.J. Verschure,

1: Laboratory of Synthetic Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems,
  Center of Autonomous Systems and Neurorobotics, Universitat Pompeu Fabra Barcelona, Spain

2: ICREA - Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats Barcelona, Spain

In his 1937 presidential address to the American Psychological Association Edward Tolman "The question I am going to discuss is the very straightforward and specific one of 'why rats turn the way they do, at a given choice-point in a given maze at a given stage of learning'
" [1]. The choice point Tolman had in mind was the point in the T-maze where the animal has to decide to turn into either of the two arms. A significant section of the address is dedicated to, so called, Vicarious Trial and Error (VTE) behavior that correlates with the advancement of learning and the difficulty of the task. In the mean time we have significantly advanced our understanding of the different brain systems, which underlie this decision making process. However, it is still unclear how these systems are integrated into one architecture supporting real-world action. I will address this question fmor the perspective of the Distributed Adaptive Control Theory of mind and brain (DAC).  DAC starts from the hypothesis that brains evolved to act by optimizing 5 fundamental objective functions in order to solve the How of action: Why, What, Where, When, Who or H5W. I will show how different subsystems of this model map to the brain in the context of maze learning and foraging behavior. In particular I will look at the substrate of "where" or spatial cognition, the hippocampus, which allows the agent to perform internal simulation and mind-travel and contrast it with the parallel controllers of the cerebellum which are tuned to error minimization and temporal prediction, or "when". I will illustrate these models with both anatomically and physiologically grounded models and robot based experiments. If time permits Paul will elaborate on the generalization of DAC towards the explanation of consciousness as a core ingredient to evolution's answer to H5W.


1.         Tolman, E.C., The determiners of behavior at a choice point. Psychological Review, 1938. 45(1): p. 1.

For more information, please contact John Doyle by email at [email protected].