Towards a Unified Theory of Neocortex: Laminar Cortical Circuits for Vision and Cognition
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A key goal of computational neuroscience is to link brain mechanisms to behavioral functions. The present article describes recent progress towards explaining how laminar neocortical circuits give rise to biological intelligence. These circuits embody two new and revolutionary computational paradigms: Complementary Computing and Laminar Computing. Circuit properties include a novel synthesis of feedforward and feedback processing, of digital and analog processing, and of pre-attentive and attentive processing. This synthesis clarifies the appeal of Bayesian approaches but has a far greater predictive range that naturally extends to self-organizing processes. Examples from vision and cognition are summarized. A LAMINART architecture unifies properties of visual development, learning, perceptual grouping, attention, and 3D vision. A key modeling theme is that the mechanisms which enable development and learning to occur in a stable way imply properties of adult behavior. It is noted how higher-order attentional constraints can influence multiple cortical regions, and how spatial and object attention work together to learn view-invariant object categories. In particular, a form-fitting spatial attentional shroud can allow an emerging view-invariant object category to remain active while multiple view categories are associated with it during sequences of saccadic eye movements. Finally, the chapter summarizes recent work on the LIST PARSE model of cognitive information processing by the laminar circuits of prefrontal cortex. LIST PARSE models the short-term storage of event sequences in working memory, their unitization through learning into sequence, or list, chunks, and their read-out in planned sequential performance that is under volitional control. LIST PARSE provides a laminar embodiment of Item and Order working memories, also called Competitive Queuing models, that have been supported by both psychophysical and neurobiological data. These examples show how variations of a common laminar cortical design can embody properties of visual and cognitive intelligence that seem, at least on the surface, to be mechanistically unrelated.