Carls-Diamante, Sidney

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Explanation Within Arm’s Reach : A Predictive Processing Framework for Single Arm Use in Octopuses

2023, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

Octopuses are highly intelligent animals with vertebrate-like cognitive and behavioural repertoires. Despite these similarities, vertebrate-based models of cognition and behaviour cannot always be successfully applied to octopuses, due to the structural and functional characteristics that have evolved in their nervous system in response to the unique challenges posed by octopus morphology. For instance, the octopus brain does not support a somatotopic or point-for-point spatial map of the body—an important feature of vertebrate nervous systems. Thus, while octopuses are capable of motor tasks whose vertebrate counterparts require detailed interoceptive monitoring, these movements may not be explainable using motor control frameworks premised on internal spatial representation. One such motor task is the extension of a single arm. The ability of octopuses to select and use a single arm without the guidance of a somatotopic map has been regarded as a motor control puzzle. In an attempt at a solution, this paper develops a predictive processing account of single-arm extension in octopuses.

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Where Is It Like to Be an Octopus?

2022, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

The cognitive capacities and behavioural repertoire of octopuses have led to speculation that these animals may possess consciousness. However, the nervous system of octopuses is radically different from those typically associated with conscious experience: rather than being centralised and profoundly integrated, the octopus nervous system is distributed into components with considerable functional autonomy from each other. Of particular note is the arm nervous system: when severed, octopus arms still exhibit behaviours that are nearly identical to those exhibited when the animal is intact. Given these factors, there is reason to speculate that if octopuses do possess consciousness, it may be of a form highly dissimilar to familiar models. In particular, it may be that the octopus arm is capable of supporting an idiosyncratic field of consciousness. As such, in addition to the likelihood that there is something it is like to be an octopus, there may also be something it is like to be an octopus arm. This manuscript explores this possibility.

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Repeating patterns : Predictive processing suggests an aesthetic learning role of the basal ganglia in repetitive stereotyped behaviors

2022-09-08, Spee, Blanca T. M., Sladky, Ronald, Fingerhut, Joerg, Laciny, Alice, Kraus, Christoph, Carls-Diamante, Sidney, Brücke, Christof, Pelowski, Matthew, Treven, Marco

Recurrent, unvarying, and seemingly purposeless patterns of action and cognition are part of normal development, but also feature prominently in several neuropsychiatric conditions. Repetitive stereotyped behaviors (RSBs) can be viewed as exaggerated forms of learned habits and frequently correlate with alterations in motor, limbic, and associative basal ganglia circuits. However, it is still unclear how altered basal ganglia feedback signals actually relate to the phenomenological variability of RSBs. Why do behaviorally overlapping phenomena sometimes require different treatment approaches−for example, sensory shielding strategies versus exposure therapy for autism and obsessive-compulsive disorder, respectively? Certain clues may be found in recent models of basal ganglia function that extend well beyond action selection and motivational control, and have implications for sensorimotor integration, prediction, learning under uncertainty, as well as aesthetic learning. In this paper, we systematically compare three exemplary conditions with basal ganglia involvement, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and autism spectrum conditions, to gain a new understanding of RSBs. We integrate clinical observations and neuroanatomical and neurophysiological alterations with accounts employing the predictive processing framework. Based on this review, we suggest that basal ganglia feedback plays a central role in preconditioning cortical networks to anticipate self-generated, movement-related perception. In this way, basal ganglia feedback appears ideally situated to adjust the salience of sensory signals through precision weighting of (external) new sensory information, relative to the precision of (internal) predictions based on prior generated models. Accordingly, behavioral policies may preferentially rely on new data versus existing knowledge, in a spectrum spanning between novelty and stability. RSBs may then represent compensatory or reactive responses, respectively, at the opposite ends of this spectrum. This view places an important role of aesthetic learning on basal ganglia feedback, may account for observed changes in creativity and aesthetic experience in basal ganglia disorders, is empirically testable, and may inform creative art therapies in conditions characterized by stereotyped behaviors.

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The argument from Evel (Knievel) : daredevils and the free energy principle

2022, Carls-Diamante, Sidney

Much of the literature on the free energy principle (FEP) has focused on how organisms maintain homeostasis amidst a constantly changing environment. A fun- damental feature of the FEP is that biological entities are “hard-wired” towards self-preservation. However, contrary to this notion, there do exist organisms that appear to seek out rather than avoid conditions that pose an elevated risk of serious injury or death, thereby jeopardizing their physiological integrity. Borrowing a term used in 1990s popular culture to refer to stunt performers like Evel Knievel, these organisms that exhibit such behavioural characteristics can be referred to as daredevils. This paper presents the case of daredevils as a challenge to the FEP’s homeo- stasis- and optimization-based construal of biological systems. It also introduces three possible explanatory strategies by which the FEP can account for daredevils. The broader objective of the paper is to enhance the FEP’s ability to account for a diverse range of complex behaviour.