J. Fuster has put forward a new model of thought based on the idea of memory networks he calls cognits. Here is the abstract from a recent paper, Cortex and memory: emergence of a new paradigm.
Converging evidence from humans and nonhuman primates is obliging us to abandon conventional models in favor of a radically different, distributed-network paradigm of cortical memory. Central to the new paradigm is the concept of memory network or cognit–that is, a memory or an item of knowledge defined by a pattern of connections between neuron populations associated by experience. Cognits are hierarchically organized in terms of semantic abstraction and complexity. Complex cognits link neurons in noncontiguous cortical areas of prefrontal and posterior association cortex. Cognits overlap and interconnect profusely, even across hierarchical levels (heterarchically), whereby a neuron can be part of many memory networks and thus many memories or items of knowledge.
And an abstract from a somewhat earlier paper, The cognit: a network model of cortical representation.
The prevalent concept in modular models is that there are discrete cortical domains dedicated more or less exclusively to such cognitive functions as visual discrimination, language, spatial attention, face recognition, motor programming, memory retrieval, and working memory. Most of these models have failed or languished for lack of conclusive evidence. In their stead, network models are emerging as more suitable and productive alternatives. Network models are predicated on the basic tenet that cognitive representations consist of widely distributed networks of cortical neurons. Cognitive functions, namely perception, attention, memory, language, and intelligence, consist of neural transactions within and between these networks. The present model postulates that memory and knowledge are represented by distributed, interactive, and overlapping networks of neurons in association cortex. Such networks, named cognits, constitute the basic units of memory or knowledge. The association cortex of posterior-post-rolandic-regions contains perceptual cognits: cognitive networks made of neurons associated by information acquired through the senses. Conversely, frontal association cortex contains executive cognits, made of neurons associated by information related to action. In both posterior and frontal cortex, cognits are hierarchically organized. At the bottom of that organization-that is, in parasensory and premotor cortex-cognits are small and relatively simple, representing simple percepts or motor acts. At the top of the organization-in temporo-parietal and prefrontal cortex-cognits are wider and represent complex and abstract information of perceptual or executive character. Posterior and frontal networks are associated by long reciprocal cortico-cortical connections. These connections support the dynamics of the perception-action cycle in sequential behavior, speech, and reasoning.
This work caught my attention in a posting to the blog The Quantum Lobe Chronicles by W. Lu. (here)
Although the modular modeling of the brain has utterly failed due to a lack of conclusive evidence, many neuroscientists continue to maintain this antiquated view… but why? Put quite simply, there was nothing better. However, thanks to Fuster, a new paradigm is emerging…
Introducing the cognit network model. It postulates that memory and knowledge are represented by interactive, distributed, and overlapping networks of neurons in association cortices.
The posterior-post-rolandic association cortex contains perceptual cognits and the frontal association cortex contains executive cognits. The prefrontal and posterior association cortices are linked by complex cognits in a hierarchical order. The parasensory and premotor cortex, found at the bottom of the hierarchy, contain relatively simple and small cognits which represent motor acts or simple percepts. At the top of the hierarchy is the temporo–parietal and prefrontal cortex containing larger cognits representing complex and abstract information of perception and executive control. The long reciprocal cortico–cortical connections between the posterior and frontal networks support sequential behavior, speech, and reasoning.