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cheffernan's picture

Too simple for such a complicated system

It seems as though a majority of the class seems to be in agreement that looking at the brain, as a system of input/output boxes is a good way to begin fundamentally understanding the brain. I am in agreement with the rest of the class, but I hesitate to concur completely. The model that was on the website was a box that enclosed other boxes and lines to connect those boxes, which is a perfect way to represent the system as we currently understand it. But my question is: how were the boxes established? How were the connections between these boxes established? And how do you create more boxes and more connections?

The current system that we are commenting on is a stagnant system, which is no way to be looking at the brain. The brain is constantly establishing new connections within itself, which is apart of the learning process. Classical conditioning occurs because the brain is able to connect a sensual input with a physical output, and requires making a connection between neurons that previously never existed. For the current model that we are commenting on, there needs to be the capacity to establish new input/output boxes and connections between the boxes to be a sufficient representation for the brain from which we currently understand it.

While we briefly looked at the “Harvard Law of Animal Behavior”, which states, “under carefully controlled experimental circumstances, an animal behaves as it damned well pleases.” Thinking about this in terms of the input/output system, there doesn’t have to be the expected out come, nor does there have to be an outcome at all. It is important to remember that any input could generate any output, which is not as easily accomplished through the input/output system. It appears to go in a rather linear direction, where some boxes have multiple inputs and/or outputs; there needs to be some kind of connection, be it linearly or more of a web-like connection, from every input to every possible output.

It is impossible to think about the brain as a static system because of the great capabilities that the brain possesses. The process of learning produces so many changes in the brain that no model could ever be capable of recreating; yet I will say that for the relative simplicity of this current model, it does an adequate job of replicating such a complicated system.


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