A new model to better understand brain ‘consciousness’

Jean-Benoit Lego, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL – A new model developed by Montreal and French researchers could lead to a better understanding of how the brain acquires its “consciousness,” which could then lead to better treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders and advances in artificial intelligence.

This neurocomputational model was developed by an international team of researchers from the Pasteur Institute and Sorbonne University in Paris, CHU Sainte-Justine, Mila – Quebec Institute of Artificial Intelligence and the University of Montreal.

“Until now, this model has always been made for the already formed brain, the adult brain,” said one of the authors of the paper, Professor Guillaume Dumas from the Department of Psychiatry and Addiction at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris. “Montreal. University.

“However, in our model, what we did was we started with a little bit of a child’s brain and developed that model, which is (what are) the mechanisms that are necessary so that through development and experience of the world, the brain can acquire this capacity for consciousness.

The word “consciousness,” notes Professor Dumas, is one of the most controversial terms and perhaps one of the least well defined in the field of cognitive science. In the context of this paper, this refers to the brain’s ability to describe sensory experiences (eg, “I see a red flower” or “I hear music”).

At birth, he continues, the child does not have this “awareness”, there is basically no separation between him and others, and it is over time, through interaction with others, that this separation develops.

“The model we propose is the steps necessary to (achieve) this self-awareness,” explained Mr. Dumas. What are the most fundamental and critical mechanisms for the emergence of consciousness?

The model is computational, in the sense that it is on a computer, but it is a “biophysical” model that, unlike algorithms programmed to achieve a specific goal, is rather “biology-inspired”.

“We have simulated neurons, just like in our brain, (and they) reproduce the electrical exchange going on in the brain,” explained Mr. Dumas. We also included biological phenomena in our model, such as dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter associated with reward, so that the model can learn through rewards during learning.

Understanding the emergence of consciousness may have clinical implications in the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders, but also in the development of artificial intelligence, he concludes.

The results of this work were revealed in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

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