A Theory of How the Brain Might Work

Unknown author (1990-12-01)

I wish to propose a quite speculative new version of the grandmother cell theory to explain how the brain, or parts of it, may work. In particular, I discuss how the visual system may learn to recognize 3D objects. The model would apply directly to the cortical cells involved in visual face recognition. I will also outline the relation of our theory to existing models of the cerebellum and of motor control. Specific biophysical mechanisms can be readily suggested as part of a basic type of neural circuitry that can learn to approximate multidimensional input-output mappings from sets of examples and that is expected to be replicated in different regions of the brain and across modalities. The main points of the theory are: -the brain uses modules for multivariate function approximation as basic components of several of its information processing subsystems. -these modules are realized as HyperBF networks (Poggio and Girosi, 1990a,b). -HyperBF networks can be implemented in terms of biologically plausible mechanisms and circuitry. The theory predicts a specific type of population coding that represents an extension of schemes such as look-up tables. I will conclude with some speculations about the trade-off between memory and computation and the evolution of intelligence.