Abstract: Modern theories of the brain describe it as a series of information processing stages for perceiving and representing the world, thinking about it, and then acting upon it. However, this intuitively appealing and influential view is not well-supported by neurophysiological data. Sensory, cognitive, and motor functions appear distributed through diverse brain regions and often mixed within the activity of individual neurons. As an alternative, I will describe a model based on theories from ethology, which suggests that behavior involves a continuous competition between potential ways to interact with the world. I will present recent results supporting some of the key predictions of this alternative way of looking at how the brain implements behavior, focusing on neurophysiological studies of decisions between actions.
Cisek, P. (1999) Beyond the computer metaphor: Behaviour as interaction. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 6(11-12): 125-142. http://www.cisek.org/pavel/Pubs/Cis1999.pdf
Cisek, P. and Kalaska, J.F. (2010) Neural mechanisms for interacting with a world full of action choices. Annual Review of Neuroscience. 33: 269-298.http://www.cisek.org/pavel/Pubs/CisekKalaska2010.pdf