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Original Communication

Evolving Structure-Function Mappings in Cognitive Neuroscience Using Genetic Programming

Published Online:

A challenging goal of psychology and neuroscience is to map cognitive functions onto neuroanatomical structures. This paper shows how computational methods based upon evolutionary algorithms can facilitate the search for satisfactory mappings by efficiently combining constraints from neuroanatomy and physiology (the structures) with constraints from behavioural experiments (the functions). This methodology involves creation of a database coding for known neuroanatomical and physiological constraints, for mental programs made of primitive cognitive functions, and for typical experiments with their behavioural results. The evolutionary algorithms evolve theories mapping structures to functions in order to optimize the fit with the actual data. These theories lead to new, empirically testable predictions. The role of the prefrontal cortex in humans is discussed as an example. This methodology can be applied to the study of structures or functions alone, and can also be used to study other complex systems.