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Science 314 (5796): 91-94

Copyright © 2006 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Biologically Based Computational Models of High-Level Cognition

Randall C. O'Reilly

Abstract: Computer models based on the detailed biology of the brain can help us understand the myriad complexities of human cognition and intelligence. Here, we review models of the higher level aspects of human intelligence, which depend critically on the prefrontal cortex and associated subcortical areas. The picture emerging from a convergence of detailed mechanistic models and more abstract functional models represents a synthesis between analog and digital forms of computation. Specifically, the need for robust active maintenance and rapid updating of information in the prefrontal cortex appears to be satisfied by bistable activation states and dynamic gating mechanisms. These mechanisms are fundamental to digital computers and may be critical for the distinctive aspects of human intelligence.

Department of Psychology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309, USA.

E-mail: oreilly{at}

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