Researchers have induced schizophrenic symptoms in a computer, causing it to claim responsibility for terrorist bombings, among other delusions. What they found grants further insight into the sort of mental wiring that causes schizophrenia.
Computer scientists at the University of Texas-Austin built a neural network called DISCERN, which is able to learn natural language. The humans taught it a series of simple stories, teaching it to store information as relationships between words and sentences — much the same way a person would learn a story.
Then they started again, but cranked up DISCERN’s rate of learning — so it was assimilating words at a faster rate, and it was not ignoring as much noise in the data.
Some mental health experts believe schizophrenics cannot forget or ignore as much stimuli as they should, which makes it difficult to synthesize and process the correct information. This “hyperlearning” phenomenon causes schizophrenics to lose connections among individual stories, losing the distinction between reality and illusion. Dopamine is a key factor in the process of understanding and differentiating experiences.
Telling the computer to “forget less” was akin to flooding the system with dopamine, confounding its ability to discern relationships between words, sentences and events, according to a news release from UT.