Konstantin V. Baev, MD, PhD
Senior Staff Scientist
Department of Neuroscience
Barrow Neurological Institute
A New Conceptual Understanding of the Brain and its Implications for Neurosciences
The new brain concept is the result of logical derivations drawn from the discovery of the generic functional organization of central pattern generators. Central pattern generators are neural systems that control automatic inborn rhythmic movements such as locomotion, scratching, and breathing in various animal species. It was experimentally shown that a central pattern generator possesses a model of its controlled object behavior and, therefore, is a mode of operation of a neural optimal control system (NOCS).
According to the new concept, the brain is a hierarchy of neural optimal control systems that are functionally organized so that a higher level neural optimal control system treats a lower one as its controlled object and creates a model of its behavior. The new concept is broadly applicable to explain various brain-initiated normal, pathological, and clinical phenomena, including behaviors generated by the highest brain levels. The ability of the new conceptual brain model to explain brain mechanisms underlying normal behaviors is exemplified by spinal reflexes and central pattern generators, the cerebellum, skeletomotor and other cortico-basal ganglia-thalamocortical loops.
The new brain concept elucidates major pathophysiological mechanisms in hierarchical neural optimal control systems. It provides the fields of psychiatry and neurology with a better means of analyzing mechanisms of neurological symptoms. For example, within the framework of the new concept it is easy to explain how the death of dopaminergic neurons can lead to Parkinsonian motor symptoms such as tremor and dyskinesia. The new brain concept also effectively explains clinical phenomena such as deep brain stimulation and partial lesions of particular basal ganglia structures that functional neurosurgeons use to alleviate motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease.
The classic conceptual model of the brain commonly found in neuroscience textbooks cannot explain high-level brain functions because of its simplistic explanation of the relationship between structure and function in the brain. The new brain concept introduces a new understanding of the relationship between structure and function in the brain. Eventual broad use of the new brain concept in neurobiology and medicine will require serious educational and organizational changes in the neurosciences.
Finally, the new brain concept is a perfect framework for creating brain-like artificial intelligence because is shows what should be achieved in technical systems to mimic brain features.
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