ISBN: 9780262323819 | 456 pp. | February 2015

Brain Computation as Hierarchical Abstraction


The vast differences between the brain's neural circuitry and a computer's silicon circuitry might suggest that they have nothing in common. In fact, as Dana Ballard argues in this book, computational tools are essential for understanding brain function. Ballard shows that the hierarchical organization of the brain has many parallels with the hierarchical organization of computing; as in silicon computing, the complexities of brain computation can be dramatically simplified when its computation is factored into different levels of abstraction.

Drawing on several decades of progress in computational neuroscience, together with recent results in Bayesian and reinforcement learning methodologies, Ballard factors the brain's principal computational issues in terms of their natural place in an overall hierarchy. Each of these factors leads to a fresh perspective. A neural level focuses on the basic forebrain functions and shows how processing demands dictate the extensive use of timing-based circuitry and an overall organization of tabular memories. An embodiment level organization works in reverse, making extensive use of multiplexing and on-demand processing to achieve fast parallel computation. An awareness level focuses on the brain's representations of emotion, attention and consciousness, showing that they can operate with great economy in the context of the neural and embodiment substrates.

Table of Contents

  1. Series Foreword
  2. Preface
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. I. Setting the Stage
  5. 1. Brain Computation
  6. 2. Brain Overview
  7. II. Neurons, Circuits, and Subsystems
  8. 3. Neurons and Circuits
  9. 4. Cortical Memory
  10. 5. Programs via Reinforcement
  11. III. Embodiment of Behavior
  12. 6. Sensory-Motor Routines
  13. 7. Motor Routines
  14. 8. Operating System
  15. IV. Awareness
  16. 9. Decision Making
  17. 10. Emotions
  18. 11. Consciousness
  19. Notes
  20. References
  21. Index
  22. Series Title List