Another hybrid

Peter Cariani mentioned that some folks think of vision as involving
feature detectors which are at the low end of a neural net for pattern
recognition. Such a model would be a hybrid of the "holographic" feature
detection approaches.

You could create another hybrid by having a "holographic" low end and a
syntactic upper end. I think that this kind of hybrid is what we actually
use in complex scene analysis and interpret the visual scan paths various
researchers have found as "traces" of the syntactice upper end.

There is a language researcher (Martin Sereno) at UC San Diego who has
advanced the hypothesis that, phylogenetically, linguistic syntax
mechanisms "piggy-back" on visual syntax mechanisms. That is, linguistic
syntax doesn't require completely new neural tissue, just some
modifications to existing tissue. His work was reported in *Discover* for
June 1996 (and you can find some of his papers on the Web).

He's also responsible for a very elegant visualization technique. As some
of you know, while the neocortex has a complex 3D geometry, it is basically
a sheet of columnar units which is "crumpled up" to fit into the 3D volume
inside the skull. So, it might be much easier to interpret all sorts of
neural observations if we could view them on a smoothed cortical sheet
rather than the complex 3D volume. So, Sereno's technique is to take the
data (blood flow, PET scan, etc.) as it is represented in a 3D computer
graphics representation and simply "inflate" the cortex until the surface
is stretched smooth.

They should've done that years ago.

* * * * * *

For anyone who's curious about the brain, but isn't sure about where to
begin satisfying your curiosity, I recommend a book I just picked up. I
haven't examined it in detail, but I don't see how you can go wrong; it
looks good so far. The book is:

Ron Van der Meer & Ad Dudink. The Brain Pack, Running Press, 1996.

This is one of those grand pop-up books with lots of pictures and puzzles
and stuff (but, alas, no large rubber bands). It hits everything from the
synapse through emotion to consciousness and langauge. All of course very
informal and readable. There is also a small booklet with references to
the recent literature, including various textbooks and overviews. If
you're starting from nothing, here's the place to begin.


William L. Benzon 518.272.4733
161 2nd Street
Troy, NY 12180
What color would you be if you didn't know what you was?
That's what color I am.