Markov Blankets and Mirror Symmetries. Free Energy Minimization and Mesocortical Anatomy

James Wright1, Paul Bourke
Entropy 2024, 26(4), 287; DOI: 10.3390/e26040287

1 Centre for Brain Research and Department of Psychological Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


A theoretical account of development in mesocortical anatomy is derived from the free energy principle, operating in a neural field with both Hebbian and anti-Hebbian neural plasticity. An elementary structural unit is proposed, in which synaptic connections at mesoscale are arranged in paired patterns with mirror symmetry. Exchanges of synaptic flux in each pattern form coupled spatial eigenmodes, and the line of mirror reflection between the paired patterns operates as a Markov blanket, so that prediction errors in exchanges between the pairs are minimized. The theoretical analysis is then compared to the outcomes from a biological model of neocortical development, in which neuron precursors are selected by apoptosis for cell body and synaptic connections maximizing synchrony and also minimizing axonal length. It is shown that this model results in patterns of connection with the anticipated mirror symmetries, at micro-, meso- and inter-arial scales, among lateral connections, and in cortical depth. This explains the spatial organization and functional significance of neuron response preferences, and is compatible with the structural form of both columnar and noncolumnar cortex. Multi-way interactions of mirrored representations can provide a preliminary anatomically realistic model of cortical information processing.


free energy principle; active inference; predictive coding; Markov blankets; cortical development; cortical mesoanatomy; cortical self-organization

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