Special Viewpoints

Self-Representation in Nervous Systems

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Science  12 Apr 2002:
Vol. 296, Issue 5566, pp. 308-310
DOI: 10.1126/science.1070564

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The brain's earliest self-representational capacities arose as evolution found neural network solutions for coordinating and regulating inner-body signals, thereby improving behavioral strategies. Additional flexibility in organizing coherent behavioral options emerges from neural models that represent some of the brain's inner states as states of its body, while representing other signals as perceptions of the external world. Brains manipulate inner models to predict the distinct consequences in the external world of distinct behavioral options. The self thus turns out to be identifiable not with a nonphysical soul, but rather with a set of representational capacities of the physical brain.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail pschurchland{at}ucsd.edu

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