Function Follows Form: Biologically Guided Functional Decomposition of Memory Systems

David C. Noelle

The field of design has offered the maxim that "form follows function," suggesting that the physical properties of an artifact should reflect our conception of its intended use. This advice can lead us astray, however, when looking to the brain for inspiration when developing intelligent systems. Too often, our preconceived notions concerning functional decomposition cause us to force strongly delineated functional roles on specific neural subsystems. To fully leverage the lessons of natural cognitive systems, we must remain open to functional architectures that might seem unnatural to us but are revealed in the form, or structure, of the brain. To illustrate this point, this report briefly reviews several nontraditional functional organizations of neural systems that have been proposed for working memory.

Submitted: Sep 15, 2008