Scientists Try to Make a Schizophrenic Computer

So, in my time as a blogger I have written about some pretty interesting things. I have also written about some pretty strange things and even some downright absurd things. However, this story may just be in a league of its own.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Texas in Austin along with researchers from Yale University was set on creating the thinking of a schizophrenic mind on a computer. Yeah, that’s right, they are trying to make a computer a schizophrenic by using a virtual network.

Their research is based on something known as the hyperlearning theory of schizophrenia. This theory maintains that the disease schizophrenia stems from an inability to forget or ignore non-essential information.

In their work, the research teams taught a series of stories to a computer model known to them as DISCERN. Using natural language processing, the computer is able to map out the different stories in a manner similar to the human brain. In the researchers’ model, a simulated dopamine release was used to mark significant information as DISCERN learned the stories. What this means is that DISCERN more or less forgot less and perceived more information as being important.

When the researchers asked DISCERN to recant the stories, the computer did so while producing strange and delusional narratives from the information it was given. According to the Science Blog, “After being re-trained with the elevated learning rate, DISCERN began putting itself at the center of fantastical, delusional stories that incorporated elements from other stories it had been told to recall. In one answer, for instance, DISCERN claimed responsibility for a terrorist bombing.”

The Science Blog went on to say, “In another instance, DISCERN began showing evidence of “derailment” – replying to requests for a specific memory with a jumble of dissociated sentences, abrupt digressions and constant leaps from the first- to the third-person and back again.”

Even though this study is very interesting and the computer did show similarities to actual schizophrenic symptoms that were disturbingly similar, DISCERN is not concrete proof of the hyperlearning hypothesis. It is simply a simulation and the relevance of the output is interpreted by humans. However, the unique approach to the study, modeling a cause of a brain disorder and comparing the results to actual cases, is stunning overall and could even prove to be a powerful new tool for doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists.

Source: Geekosystem – Scientists Attempt to Induce Schizophrenia on a Computer

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