Does the brain have a Von Neumann Architecture: DOM VI Update

Yesterday’s talks had an underlying debate about the very nature of the brain, namely does it have a Von Neumann architecture, has it evolved to compute or did it evolve to be something more of a Rube Goldberg machine? Pushing the latter view was Duke’s Dale Purves, the former position was taken by Rutger’s Randy Gallistel with Stanford’s Jay McClelland coming down somewhere in the middle.

Central to the debate was the question of whether there is a biological substrate for the required read/write addressable memory in the brain (in species ranging from ants to humans).

My own view is that the CA3 field of mammalian hippocampus at least offers the possibility of serving as the biological substrate as evidenced by its circuitry, the plasticity of its synapses and the possibility of mechanisms other than pure spike time dependent plasticity providing the ability to address specific synapses.

My former Mason colleague Maria Kozhevnikov (now at the National University of Singapore and Harvard Medical School) gave a wonderful talk on performance differences produced by immersing human subjects in immersed 3-D environments.

I had the honor of opening up DOM VI with an overview of the initiative.