Scientists afflict computers with schizophrenia to better understand the human brain
Computer networks that can’t forget fast enough can show symptoms of a kind of virtual schizophrenia, giving researchers further clues to the inner workings of schizophrenic brains, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Yale University have found.
The researchers used a virtual computer model, or “neural network,” to simulate the excessive release of dopamine in the brain. They found that the network recalled memories in a distinctly schizophrenic-like fashion.
“The hypothesis is that dopamine encodes the importance — the salience — of experience,” says Uli Grasemann, a graduate student in the Department of Computer Science at The University of Texas at Austin. “When there’s too much dopamine, it leads to exaggerated salience, and the brain ends up learning from things that it shouldn’t be learning from.”
The results bolster a hypothesis known in schizophrenia circles as the hyperlearning hypothesis, which posits that people suffering from schizophrenia have brains that lose the ability to forget or ignore as much as they normally would. Without forgetting, they lose the ability to extract what’s meaningful out of the immensity of stimuli the brain encounters. They start making connections that aren’t real, or drowning in a sea of so many connections they lose the ability to stitch together any kind of coherent story.
Fascinating stuff. I’ve been interested in the history of schizophrenia research and how it relates to different developments of cognitive functions in humans for a long time, ever since I read Chester Brown’s My Mom was a Schizophrenic.
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