The nervous system as a solution for implementing closed negative feedback control loops

Author: Rodrigo Sosa1, Emmanuel Alcalá2
1 Universidad Panamericana, Guadalajara, México.
2 Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, Guadalajara, México.
Conference/Journal: J Exp Anal Behav
Date published: 2022 Feb 4
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1002/jeab.736. , Word Count: 248

Behavior can be regarded as the output of a system (action), as a function linking stimulus to response (reaction), or as an abstraction of the bidirectional relationship between the environment and the organism (interaction). When considering the latter possibility, a relevant question arises concerning how an organism can materially and continuously implement such a relationship during its lifetime in order to perpetuate itself. The feedback control approach has taken up the task of answering just that question. During the last several decades, said approach has been progressing and has started to be recognized as a paradigm shift, superseding certain canonical notions in mainstream behavior analysis, cognitive psychology, and even neuroscience. In this paper, we describe the main features of feedback control theory and its associated techniques, concentrating on its critiques of behavior analysis, as well as the commonalities they share. While some of feedback control theory's major critiques of behavior analysis arise from the fact that they focus on different levels of organization, we believe that some are legitimate and meaningful. Moreover, feedback control theory seems to blend with neurobiology more smoothly as compared to canonical behavior analysis, which only subsists in a scattered handful of fields. If this paradigm shift truly takes place, behavior analysts-whether they accept or reject this new currency-should be mindful of the basics of the feedback control approach.

Keywords: behavioral neuroscience; closed negative feedback loops; hierarchical organization of behavior; nonlinear system dynamics; perceptual control; performance-learning distinction; reinforcement learning; reward seeking.

PMID: 35119112 DOI: 10.1002/jeab.736