Why we view the brain as computer

Computational neuroscientists employ computer models and simulations in studying brain functions. But, in addition, they view the modeled nervous system itself as computing. What does it mean to say that the brain computes? And what is the utility of the 'brain-as-computer' assumption in studying brain functions? In previous work, I argue that the algorithmic conception of computation is not adequate to address these questions. Here I introduce and explicate an alternative, "analog", conception of computation. The term 'analog' does not mean continuous, non-discrete or non-digital. It means that the functional performance of the system mirrors mathematical relations in some other physical dynamics or environment. Thus, to say that the brain computes is to take the cellular activity of the brain to mirror external relations between what is being represented. The brain-as-computer view is invoked to demonstrate that the internal cellular activity is appropriate for the pertinent information-processing (often cognitive) task.

Elath Hall, 2nd floor, Feldman Building, Edmond J. Safra Campus
Friday, June 6, 2008 - 10:00 to 12:00
Old Lecturers: 
Oron Shagrir
Old Lecturers University: 
The Hebrew University