Dopamine, Learning, and Production Rules: The Basal Ganglia and the Flexible Control of Information Transfer in the Brain

Date of Original Version



Conference Proceeding

Abstract or Description

One of the open issues in developing large-scale computational models of the brain is how the transfer of information between communicating cortical regions is controlled. Here, we present a model where the basal ganglia implement such a conditional information routing system. The basal ganglia are a set of subcortical nuclei that play a central role in cognition. Like a switchboard, the model basal ganglia direct the communication between cortical regions by alerting the destination regions to the presence of important signals coming from the source regions. This way, they can impose serial control on the massive parallel communication between cortical areas. The model also incorporates a possible mechanism by which subsequent transfers of information control the release of dopamine. This signal is used to produce novel stimulus-response associations by internalizing the representation being transferred in the striatum. We discuss how this neural circuit can be seen as a biological implementation of a production system. This comparison highlights the basal ganglia as bridge between computational models of small-size brain circuits and high-level characterizations of complex cognition, such as cognitive architectures.

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Published In

A. Samsonovich (Ed.) Biologically Inspired Cognitive Architectures II, AAAI Press, 169-175.