Towards Body Architecture [Architecture v1.5]

Body Architecture v1.5

The autobiographical origin of this post is rather involved:

  • First, I wanted to understand the medial prefrontal cortex generated emotion.
  • Next, I wanted to understand how affective neuroscience interacted with the endocrine system.
  • Next, I wanted to understand the interactions between nervous & endocrine systems more generally.
  • Finally, I wanted to understand how nervous & endocrine systems together regulate the organism as a whole.

At the end of this adventure, the following concepts stand out to me as particularly significant:

  • Thirteen pairs of cranial nerves (CN) complement information derived from the spinal nerves.
  • The HP (hypothalamus-pituitary) axes represent neuroendocrine systems, such as the HPA axis (stress), HPT axis (metabolism) and HPG axis (sexuality). These are how the central nervous system drives the endocrine system, despite the blood-brain barrier.
  • The autonomic nervous system (i.e., the sympathetic & parasympathetic branches) intertwines with the endocrine system to maintain homeostasis.
  • The enteric nervous system (500 million neurons within the gut) is connected to the brain via the vagal nerve (CN 10), but can operate independently.

A few general musings to close:

  • Within anatomy, the various bodily systems feel much more studied than their interactions.
  • The endocrine and nervous systems seem to control the body at different time scales: nerve control is immediate, hormonal control is long-lasting.
  • The distinction between autonomic nervous system & autonomic endocrine system could be used to stiffen a conceptual divide between emotion and mood.
  • This process of consolidation of anatomical knowledge has really emphasized, for me, how the neocortex is not the only actor on the stage of my architectural research.

To be continued. This was fun!

Neural Roots Of Mind [Architecture v1.5]

Part Of: [Mental Architecture v1.5] sequence


This data collection effort will become larger over the coming months. Eventually, I hope to break this up into a more formal knowledge representation system. It would be nice to create (inter-referencing, version-controlled) tables & software models containing:

  • Behavior Explananda Database: Linking modules or modular circuits to different behaviors.
  • Lesion Explanada Database: Counting how many syndromes can be explained on the current architecture.
  • Confidence Distribution Model: Formalizing my Bayesian intuitions on the architecture, and linking to various streams of evidence & constraint.
  • Cortical Maps: Displaying localization information topographically, and noticing areas where localizations overlap (logically possible, but worthy of further research)

Implementation Notes

This document is not close to representative of my entire research project, but it is better to have at least something written down.

Finally, please note that Schema Memory, Semantic Memory, and Episodic Memory are not represented in what follows. These memory systems each comprise their own representational format, but following the principle that “modules tend to save their work near where they are computed”.

Without further ado, here is my December 2015 mapping between my mental architecture, and the brain.

Modular Localizations

The following are cognitive networks (or streams, or circuits) which have been fully or partially localized. Here lie 17 distinct networks.

  1. The Action Instigator stream is responsible for activating and deactivating motor activity. It corresponds with the task-positive network and task-negative network.
  2. The Face Computation network, which includes the Face Detector, Facial Identity Lookup, and Face Expression modules.
  3. The Body Detector network, which includes Body Part Detector and Whole Body Detector modules.
  4. The Attention (Top-Down) network, which includes the Preparatory Set circuit, and the Task Switching circuit.
    • Localization: The Preparatory Set circuit operates in cingulo opercular PFC.
    • Localization: The Task Switching circuit operates in fronto-parietal PFC. 
    • Theory Basis: I am leveraging A dual-networks architecture of top-down control (Dosenbach et al, 2008)
  5. The Attention (Bottom-Up) network comprises the Salience Computation circuit and the Salience Orientation circuit.
    • Localization: The Salience Computation circuit operates in the dorsal frontal lobe. This is the home of the salience map. 
    • Localization: The Salience Orientation circuit operates in ventral frontal lobe, including Frontal Eye Fields, and is strongly right-lateralized. 
    • Theory Basis: I am leveraging The Attention System of the Human Brain: 20 Years After (Petersen and Posner, 2012).
  6. The Attention (Arousal) network comprises the top-down attention network.
  7. The Audio (Spatial) stream, which includes a left-lateralized Language Production module. 
  8. The Audio (Perceptual) stream, which includes the Voice Recognition and left-lateralized Language Comprehension modules.
    1. Theory Basis: I am leveraging The Cortical Organization Of Speech Processing (Hickok and Peoppel, 2007)
  9. The Event Analysis complex, which comprises a Biological Motion and a Causal Inference module. 
    • Localization: The Biological Motion module operates in the Superior Temporal Sulcus.
    • Localization: The Causal Inference module, whose location is unknown…
  10. The Global Broadcasting network uses the Thalamus as a relay station to construct a global workspace.
  11. The Intimacy network, which comprises an Attachment and an Attraction module 
    • Localization: the Attachment module operates in the  location is the “senior executive of the emotional brain”; the Orbitofrontal Prefrontal Cortex.
    • Localization: The Attraction module, whose location is unknown…
  12. The Location Detector network, which comprises a Place Inference and a Landmark Inference module.
  13. The Memory Metacognition network, including the Recognition Heuristic and Confidence Heuristic modules. 
  14. The Smell stream begins with the Olfactory Bulb. It is the only sense organ that is not first routed into the Thalamus.
  15. The Taste stream begins with the Gustatory Cortex.
  16. The Vision (Action) stream (which travels dorsally towards the parietal lobe) also begins with the Primary Visual Cortex.
  17. The Vision (Perception) stream (which travels ventrally towards the temporal lobe) begins with the Primary Visual Cortex.

The following are cognitive networks which I have not yet localized. Here lie 4 distinct networks.

  1. The Folk Mechanics network, which computes expectancies based on, e.g., the continuity of motion and other physics principles
  2. The Folk Math network, which includes the Subitizing module.
  3. The Identity Maintenance network, which includes the Identity Constructor, Identity Evaluator, and Identity Stabilizer modules.
  4. The Reputation complex, including the Caregiving module (partially mediated by oxytocin) and the Appreciation module (its functional sibling).

The following are cognitive modules which have been fully or partially localized. Here lie 14 distinct modules.

  1. The Action Engine module operates in the Primary Motor Cortex.
  2. The Action Evaluator operates in the Premotor Cortex.
  3. The Action Planner module operates in the Supplementary Motor Area.
  4. The Agent Classifier module, which links to the Amygdala…
  5. The Embodied Self module operates in the Primary Somatosensory Cortex.
  6. The Memory Heuristic (Effort) module, which constructs the Feeling Of Effort, lives somewhere in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC),
  7. The Homeostasis Regulator operates in the Hypothalamus.
  8. The Pavlovian Conditioning module operates in the Posterior Parietal Cortex.
  9. The Memory Constructor (Frame) module, which lives somewhere in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC)
  10. The Memory Constructor (Episodic) module operates in the Hippocampus.
  11. The Memory Constructor (Semantic) , which may be near the Lateral Occipital (LO) Complex
  12. The Normative Centroid module, which lives somewhere in the Ventro-Medial Prefrontal Cortex, and activates the Amygdala.
  13. The Conflict Monitor module, which lives in the dorsal Anterior Cingulate Cortex (dACC).
  14. The Intuition Override module, which operates in the right Ventrolateral Prefrontal Cortex (rVPC).

The following are cognitive modules which I have not localized. Here lie 9 distinct modules.

  1. The Counterfactual Simulator module
    1. Theory Basis: this module is adapted from Alan Leslie’s work, and Mindreading (Nichols and Stich, 2003).
  2. The Lie Detection module
    1. Theory Basis: Default Credulity theory, as defined by Gilbert (1991) How Mental Systems Believe.
  3. The Metaphor Linker module
  4. The Mind Reading module
  5. The Moral Rigidity module
    1. Theory Basis: Sacred Value Protection Model. Thinking the unthinkable: sacred values and taboo cognitions (Tetlock, 2003)
  6. The Social Processing (Fairness) module.
  7. The Social Processing (Exclusion) module
  8. The Social Processing (Authority) module
  9. The Symbolic Marker module


v1.5: The Tripartite Mind

Part Of: [Cognitive Architecture] sequence
Followup To: [Mental Architecture v1.4]

Let’s review our theoretical trajectory.

The Autonomic Mind: Belief, Motivation, and Decision Making

Our first architectures (1.0 → 1.2) explored the autonomic mind, which comprises our most fundamental mental capacities.

The Algorithmic Mind: Attention, Consciousness, and Intelligence

Subsequent architectures (1.3 → 1.4) complemented this understanding with the algorithmic mind, by weaving together three theories:

  • The Global Workspace theory of consciousness (inspired by Baars).
  • The Interpretive Sensory Access theory of introspection (inspired by Carruthers).
  • The Emergent Working Memory theory of attention (inspired by Postle).

There is a close link between intelligence and consciousness, as evidenced by working memory’s strong correlation with both. Generally fluid intelligence (IQ) is essentially a measure of the precision of your attentional streams.

The Reflective Mind: Metacognition, Control, and Culture

The novel innovation of this architecture (1.5) could be entitled Prefrontal Cortex: The Final Frontier. It integrates two theories into the base corpus:

  • The Reflective Modulation theory of cognitive override (inspired by Stanovitch).
  • The Somatic Frame theory of culture (inspired by Damasio).

These five theories together constitute the foundation stones of my mental architecture. Let me call this synthesis the Attention-Modulated Tripartite Mind theory.

Putting Clothes On My Theory

A theory is a house, and the above merely represents its foundation. On this base, I will add details: the following posts are planned:

  • Towards Architectural Phylogeny. Explaining mental evolution across species is an important requirement for any mental architecture.
  • Towards Brain Architecture. If the brain implements the mind, then we should be able to localize mental software packages to their respective neural locations.
  • Towards Body Architecture. The brain’s computational powers serve the needs of an organism. Mental and brain architectures must be rooted in the concerns of anatomy and ecology.

Mental Architecture v1.4

Part Of: [Mental Architecture] project
Followup To: [Mental Architecture v1.3]


Less of a jump than v1.3, but still a worthwhile place to “save my work”.  Significant new features include:

  • Consolidation Of Working Memory
  • Improved Sensory Specificity
  • A Home For Emotional Processing
  • Explicit Brain Architecture

Consolidation Of Working Memory

Adopts the Alternative View, contra the “Standard Model”, as put forward by Postle (2006) Working Memory As An Emergent Property of the Mind and Brain. Abolishes the Visuo-spatial Sketchpad and the Phonological Loop and replaces it w/ the contents of perceptual memory (and semantic memory, etc).

Improved Sensory Specificity

Reintroduces some of the sensory details already present in Mental Architecture v1.0, and adds a few organizing distinctions (e.g., exteroceptive vs interoceptive)

A Home For Emotional Processing

For months, my Emotion Generator module has lacked a comfortable home. Now, following Damasio’s gesture at homeostasis, I finally have a home for the “big six” emotions (Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Surprise). Specifically, I conjecture that these emotions are produced in topographic map located in the middle of a processing stream, whose data flows from interoceptive (e.g., hormonal) sense organs.

Explicit Brain Architecture

  • The Vision processing stream starts with Area V1 at the back of the head.
  • The Audio processing stream includes six tonotopic maps within the primary auditory cortex.
  • The Temporal Indexing module, which serves episodic memory creation, is performed by the hippocampus.
  • The Salience Attention modules comprises the bottom-up attention network.
  • The Directed Attention module comprises the top-down attention network.
  • The Central Executive module is housed in the pre-frontal cortex (PFC).
  • The Embodied Self is the Sensory Neuromatrix which is the cortical homunculus.
  • The Action Instigator module is modulated by the direct & indirect pathways of the basal ganglia.
  • The Action Engine is the Motor Neuromatrix which is the primary motor cortex.
  • The Action Evaluator is the premotor cortex.
  • The Action Planner module is the Supplementary Motor Area (SMA).
  • The Pavlovian Conditioning module is the posterior parietal cortex.
  • The Agent Detector module includes the Face Detection submodule which is operated by part of the fusiform gyrus.
  • The Favoritism Engine module is partially mediated by oxytocin.


Module Changelog

  • Removal: the Sensory Slave Modules modules b/c these are none other than perceptual systems.
  • Removal: the Modality Integration module from episodic memory, as this ability is provided by the two attentional networks.
  • Edit: relocating the Emotion Generators module from episodic memory & into interoceptive sensory processing.
  • Addition: Reflex Conditioning modules which bypassing knowledge queries en route to making hurried decisions.
  • Addition: Homeostasis Regulator modules which drive the brain’s endocrine system output.
  • Addition: a Body Ownership module within the sensory neuromatrix. The thing responsible for e.g., the rubber hand illusion.

Open Tasks

  • Incorporate Feature Integration Theory.
  • Incorporate the Somatic Marker Hypothesis.

Open Questions

  • What are the implementation details of semantic memory “files”, and frame memory “folders”?
  • Is lexical memory distinct from semantic memory?

Frustratingly Unaddressed Human Explananda

  • Music
  • Humor

[Graphic] Mental Architecture v1.3

Mental Architecture v1.3

A truly enormous upgrade. New features are as follows:

  • Memory Hierarchy
  • The Cognitive Roots Of Culture
  • Grounding Construal Level Theory
  • Grounding Dual Process Theory
  • Six Pillars Of Selfhood
  • Improved Motor Specificity

It is important to remember that these posts/diagrams are not theories in their own right. Only communicated architectural solutions qualify for this. Instead, these “version” posts give me a skeleton around which I could communicate what lives in my head. They are progress indicators I leave behind as my theories become more powerful.

Memory Hierarchy

This architecture constitutes my first “memory-centric” mental architecture.

  • Episodic memory is “video film” – that is, memories of past events.
  • Semantic memory draws from episodic memory, extracting facts and abstracting information. For example, your semantic notion of FIVE generalizing past events with e.g., five objects.
  • Frame memory also draws from episodic memory, extracting relational and behavioral patterns held in common. For example, your frame notion of RESTAURANT generalizes the behavioral patterns expected of your past restaurant visits.

Episodic memory is the “parent” of frame and semantic memory. It is the most verbose, and also the most lossy. Both other formats are better preserved across an organism’s lifetime.

Open Questions: I’ve noted indexical relationships between episodic memory and the other two formats. How else do these representational formats interrelate?

Epistemic status: takes three ubiquitous memory categories, and posits a relationship between them. While some have suggested that semantic memory draws from episodic memory, and others that frame memory draws from episodic memory (Atran ), I have not yet discovered gestures at an integration of both inheritance models besides my own.

The Cognitive Roots Of Culture

What is culture? Some people would gesture towards knowledge accretion, such as the knowledge requisite in the forging of bronze weaponry.  But others would say that culture is the birthplace of institutions like economies, political parties, and religions.

Cognitive science must explain both. Here, I claim that the former is shared semantic content, and the latter is shared frame content.

Open Questions: How exactly is semantic memory distinct from frame memory?

Epistemic status: This is highly original, and also highly tentative. I’ll feel better about it once I have a clear understanding of how frame files differ from the object files of semantic memory. But it beats having no idea where culture comes from. 🙂

Grounding Construal Level Theory

Construal Level Theory (CLT) is a theory of psychological distance. It posits that the mind retains information in two representations formats: high-level and low-level construals. This dichotomy is, among many other things, used to explain hyperbolic discounting. In my architecture, I identity low-level construals with episodic memory, and high-level construals with semantic & frame memory.

Note: A lot of insight will be unlocked after I unearth the above open questions re: frame memory.

Epistemic Status: Construal Level Theory (CLT) is a rather broad & powerful theory, and enjoys a wealth of experimental evidence. This explanation for CLT is unfortunately ambiguous first draft, but does (I think) gesture at an underappreciated connection with memory science.

Grounding Dual Process Theory

Dual Process Theory (DPT) is a theory of the functional role of consciousness. It posits your brain having two modes of operation

  1. System I processes (“the Elephant”) which are unconscious and parallel/fast
  2. System II processes (“the Rider”) which are conscious and serial/slow.

In this architecture, System II processes are identified with working memory. More specifically, your waking experience is broadcast from, and entirely contained within, THIS memory system, and no other. So e.g., I wrote a long time ago that I suspect my phonological loop is a bit atypical. If the above is correct, this means my conscious experience is likewise a tiny bit separated from the norm.

Open Questions: I haven’t finished ingesting this theory, so open questions will have to wait. 🙂

Epistemic Status: This synthesis is not my own. It is almost entirely attributable to Carruthers’ work (e.g., The Centered Mind). It is an interpretation of Global Workspace Theory, which enjoys considerable support (verging on consensus).

Six Pillars Of Selfhood

The self is not a single thing. I submit that your brain accomplishes self-reference in six distinct ways.

  • The Embodied Self is your brain’s model of the body. It is known in the literature as the cortical homunculus, or “neuromatrix”.
  • The Experiencing Self is conscious perception, that is, when sense data are globally broadcast from working memory. Note connections with Kahneman.
  • The Remembering Self is conscious memories; that is, when autobiographical episodes are globally broadcast from working memory. Note connections with Kahneman.
  • The Introspection Self is the result of applying one’s mindreading capabilities on oneself. For now, I follow Carruthers’ Opacity Of Mind: introspection is not self-knowledge, but rather self-interpretation (vulnerable to confabulation).
  • The Social Self is who we are to other people. Gestured at in Granite In Every Soul, this self is responsible for the creation of self-esteem, as explored by sociometer theory.
  • The Purposive Self is the goals one has in life, and the social roles a person may inhabit. Closely connected with the Identity Construction module & self-enhancement theory.

Importantly, the format of each self is known. This is documented in the “color coding” in the above graphic.

Open Questions: The interrelationships between the “selves”.

Epistemic Status: Unlike the rest of this architecture, the six pillars is not intended as a theory. It is a taxonomy is meant as an explanatory aid, to assist the process of theorybuilding. (It will graduate to a theory after its mechanisms are unearthed.)

Improved Motor Specificity

Reintroduces the motor details already present in Mental Architecture v0.1.

[Graphic] Social Architecture v0.1

Personality is software. Where feeling-of-meaning (and every other social experience and behavior) come from. A first draft.

This graphic illustrates the social component of human mental architecture, and seeks to integrate insights from (among others) self-verification theory, self-enhancement theory, sociometer theory, attachment theory, and motivation crowding theory.

More than other aspects of my research, this particular integration is heavily under development; and quite volatile. But I need to hit CTRL-S this week, for various reasons.

Social Architecture v0.1

Besides explaining this thing, I need to explore self-verification theory and terror management theory, integrating any insights not already captured.

Eventually, I intend to explain how this circuit is modified by social networks; that is, its construction of political, cultural, economic, and religious contexts.