Yan M. Yufik, Tomas YufikVirtual Structures Research, Inc., University of Maryland, USA
Title: Brain functional architecture and operation of understanding mechanisms under normal and pathological conditions
This paper discusses a theory of neuronal processes underlying cognition, focusing on the functional architecture and mechanisms of understanding in the human brain. Understanding is a product of mental modeling that enables forms of learning and prediction (learning with understanding and prediction via explanation) that are unique to humans and make possible robust performance under unfamiliar conditions having no precedents in past history. The theory suggests that mental modeling involves composition of neuronal structures (‘virtual structures’) comprised of quasi-stable neuronal assemblies (‘neuronal packets’) representing objects in the environment. Self-directed composition and manipulation of such structures enables capturing and simulating (envisioning) inter-objects relations, that is, different forms of coordination in the behavior of the objects admissible under the task and conditions in the environment. The key notion is that of energy landscapes in the cortex responsible for the stability of neuronal packets and their compositions (models). We review recent experimental findings supporting the key notions in the theory (in particular, assessment of energy landscapes in the cortex), and relate the theory to both recent and classical conceptualizations of principles governing brain processes (e.g., variational free energy minimization by Friston (2013) and the principle of “cortical tone optimization” by Luria (1965)). The paper also discusses applications of the theory to underlying neural mechanisms and potential treatment modalities of a variety of clinical disorders (e.g., posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety).
Yan M. Yufik holds a Ph.D. in physics and math and completed post-doctoral studies in cybernetics and cognitive science. His research interests have been centered on the mechanisms of intelligence in biological and artificial systems, focusing on the architecture and neuronal processes underlying understanding capacity in humans. Jointly with colleagues, Dr. Yufik formulated a novel theoretical approach and a framework (dubbed ‘virtual networks’) for representing mechanisms of understanding in the human brain. The approach has been outlined in numerous publications, including four book chapters and the earlier (2017) and the ongoing Special Issues in the Frontiers of Systems Neuroscience.
Tomas Yufik holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. His research interests have been focused on the diagnosis and treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and methods of personality assessment.