Visiting Speaker: L. Andrew Coward

A Systems Architecture Approach to the Brain: From Neurons to Consciousness

Speaker: L. Andrew Coward, Department of Computer Science, Australian
National University
When: 03.00PM, Mon 13 Mar 2006
Venue: 78-420
Host: Janet Wiles

   It can be demonstrated on system theoretical grounds that any system
   which learns to perform many behavioural features with limited
   information handling resources is constrained within a set of bounds
   called the recommendation architecture by the requirement to find a
   compromise between the need to conserve physical information
   handling resources and the need to learn without severe interference
   with earlier learning. Overall architecture, the definition of
   modules and components, and even device algorithms are all
   constrained, with the severity of the constraints increasing as the
   ratio of features to resources increases. Algorithms widely used in
   artificial neural networks cannot be used in some major subsystems
   of the recommendation architecture. There are strong resemblances
   between the physical forms of a system within the recommendation
   architecture bounds and the physiology of the human brain including
   separations between and functions of the cortex, hippocampus,
   thalamus, basal ganglia, cerebellum, hypothalamus and amygdala; the
   internal organization of the cortex into layers, columns and areas;
   and the topology and synaptic algorithms of neurons. Detailed
   psychological observations of a wide range of cognitive phenomena,
   including semantic, episodic, working and procedural memory;
   processes such as arithmetic; the deficits resulting from physical
   damage; and sleep with dreaming can be modelled in a physiologically
   plausible manner by a system within the recommendation architecture
   bounds. Learning can be bootstrapped from experience with minimal
   and plausible a priori information. Many phenomena labelled
   "conscious" can be modelled in terms of physiology. Electronic
   systems within the recommendation architecture bounds confirm the
   capabilities of the architecture and point the way to implementation
   of systems with human like cognitive capabilities.

   Lecture from 3-4 pm followed by informal discussion/coffee at the
   University Staff Club from 4pm to 5pm.


   Andrew was employed by Nortel Networks as a system designer and
   architect in the design of extremely complex real time control
   telecommunications systems from 1969 to 1999, and participated in
   successful projects to design and introduce commercially successful
   state of the art systems with up to 20 million lines of code and
   custom integrated circuit based hardware. While still employed as a
   system architect, he wrote a book on understanding the brain as a
   system, introducing a novel cognitive architecture. He subsequently
   obtained a US patent for system architectures which can learn to
   manage a complex telecommunications network based on the cognitive
   architecture. Since 1999 he has been full time in academic research
   into cognitive systems, most recently as a research fellow at the
   Australian National University.

   His new book, "A Systems Architecture Approach to the Brain: from
   Neurons to Consciousness", was published December 12th 2005 and will
   be introduced at this seminar.

Janet Wiles, seminar host ( or Guido Governatori,
ITEE seminar co-ordinator, ( ITEE seminar web page:

World-class basic and applied inter-disciplinary research on questions fundamental to understanding, designing and managing complex systems
2009 The ARC Centre for Complex Systems, Australia