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Reverse-Engineering the Cortical Architecture for Controlled Semantic Cognition
JACKSON, R.L., Rogers, T.T., LAMBON RALPH, M.A.
Nature Human Behaviour, 18 Jan 2021
Year of publication:
We employ a ‘reverse-engineering’ approach to illuminate the neurocomputational building blocks that combine to support controlled semantic cognition: the storage and context-appropriate use of conceptual knowledge. By systematically varying the structure of a computational model and assessing the functional consequences, we identified the architectural properties that best promote some core functions of the semantic system. Semantic cognition presents a challenging test case as the brain must achieve two seemingly contradictory functions: abstracting context-invariant conceptual representations across time and modalities, whilst producing specific context-sensitive behaviours appropriate for the immediate task. These functions were best achieved in models possessing a single, deep multimodal hub with sparse connections from modality-specific regions, and control systems acting on peripheral rather than deep network layers. The reverse-engineered model provides a unifying account of core findings in the cognitive neuroscience of controlled semantic cognition, including evidence from anatomy, neuropsychology, and functional brain imaging.