Depth and hierarchies in the predictive brain: From reaction to action

Author: Otto Muzik1, Vaibhav A Diwadkar2
1 Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Children's Hospital of Michigan, Michigan, USA.
2 Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Conference/Journal: Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci
Date published: 2023 Jul 30
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1002/wcs.1664. , Word Count: 323

The human brain is a prediction device, a view widely accepted in neuroscience. Prediction is a rational and efficient response that relies on the brain's ability to create and employ generative models to optimize actions over unpredictable time horizons. We argue that extant predictive frameworks while compelling, have not explicitly accounted for the following: (a) The brain's generative models must incorporate predictive depth (i.e., rely on degrees of abstraction to enable predictions over different time horizons); (b) The brain's implementation scheme to account for varying predictive depth relies on dynamic predictive hierarchies formed using the brain's functional networks. We show that these hierarchies incorporate the ascending processes (driven by reaction), and the descending processes (related to prediction), eventually driving action. Because they are dynamically formed, predictive hierarchies allow the brain to address predictive challenges in virtually any domain. By way of application, we explain how this framework can be applied to heretofore poorly understood processes of human behavioral thermoregulation. Although mammalian thermoregulation has been closely tied to deep brain structures engaged in autonomic control such as the hypothalamus, this narrow conception does not translate well to humans. In addition to profound differences in evolutionary history, the human brain is bestowed with substantially increased functional complexity (that itself emerged from evolutionary differences). We argue that behavioral thermoregulation in humans is possible because, (a) ascending signals shaped by homeostatic sub-networks, interject with (b) descending signals related to prediction (implemented in interoceptive and executive sub-networks) and action (implemented in executive sub-networks). These sub-networks cumulatively form a predictive hierarchy for human thermoregulation, potentiating a range of viable responses to known and unknown thermoregulatory challenges. We suggest that our proposed extensions to the predictive framework provide a set of generalizable principles that can further illuminate the many facets of the predictive brain. This article is categorized under: Neuroscience > Behavior Philosophy > Action Psychology > Prediction.

Keywords: behavioral; human regulatory hierarchy; predictive complexity; thermoregulation.

PMID: 37518831 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.1664