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Qbio Seminar Series: Larissa Albantakis

Event Details

When: September 7, 2016, 2:00 PM

Location: 3rd Floor Orchard View Room , Discovery Building

Contact: 608-316-4401, hstampfli@wisc.edu

From Consciousness to Causation in adaptive ‘animats’

Larissa Albantakis

Larissa Albantakis, PhD
Department of Psychiatry
UW–Madison, SMPH

The capacity to integrate information is a prominent feature of biological brains and has been related to cognitive flexibility as well as consciousness. To investigate how environment complexity affects the capacity for information integration, we simulated the evolution of artificial organisms (‘‘animats’’) controlled by small, adaptive neuron-like networks (‘‘brains’’). Task environments varied in difficulty due primarily to the requirements for internal memory. By applying measures of information integration, we showed that, under constraints on the number of available internal elements, the animats evolved brains that were the more integrated the more internal memory was required to solve a given task. Thus, in complex environments with a premium on context-sensitivity and memory, integrated brain architectures have an evolutionary advantage over modular ones. Analyzing the intrinsic cause-effect structure of a behaving agent can moreover elucidate to what extent the agent itself has a complex structure, and to what extent it is merely reactive. Finally, since according to integrated information theory (IIT; Tononi (2015) Scholarpedia) integrated cause-effect structures underlie consciousness, the finding that such structures offer a selective advantage in complex environments could provide a rationale as to why and how consciousness evolved.

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All QBio sponsored talks take place on Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. in the 3rd floor Orchard View room of the Discovery Building unless otherwise noted. Talks are open to the public. Access to the room is via the elevator behind Aldo’s Cafe in the Northeast corner of the building.