The exploration of neuroscience continues …
Nothing enters experience unless it has cortical representation; there must be an activation pattern in the cortical sheet to be registered in the temporal lobe as experience.
Possibly the best way to envision the hipppcampus / entorhinal cortex is as a layer “behind” (next to?) the cortex with the EC part acting as carbon paper to force a temporary copy of the temporal lobe onto the hippocampus during the day, and the contents of the hippocampus going the other way at night. This is more of an artifact of how our memory works than some sort of simulation device. Note that patient HM did not need a HC/EC to function in the way you are describing. He could not form new memories but he was capable of many actions without this.
As far as a “simulation” goes - I have never seen anything that supports this in more than very limited cases where you “think” and explore higher dimensional spaces in your memory.
Let me give you an example that contrasts this idea with what I think is actually happening.
Setting: You are sitting at your desk at work and your body has been filtering water into the bladder. Your blood is slowly shifting to a more saline condition that you register as thirst. Your bladder is sensing distension that you register as having to pee. Your computer screen is partially filled out and your social expectation is that you are successful in your employment so you keep getting paychecks and support your shelter and mate - conforming with expectations of your tribe with all the positive social affirmations that come with that.
You are processing all these sensation and the body sensors have a fairly direct connection to the thalamus nuclei. As all this is collected and represented in the temporal lobe the lower level body sensors (bladder and thirst) are also projected to the cortex to be registered as sensation.
Your way: You are constructing vast numbers of simulations that include going to lunch, punching your boss for making you work, peeing your pants, going to the water cooler, going to the bathroom, dancing on your desk, quitting your job, jumping from the office window and ending it all, leaving work and laying down in your bed at home, leaving work and watching a movie, leaving work and watching a different movie, going skydiving, (the list of possible actions at this point is really big - you can continue to add these as your imagination dictates)
You weigh all the alternatives in some sort of vast simulation and balance the risk/reward from all these and come up with the highest value for going to the restroom. I am not exactly sure how your system accounts for the intermediate goals of navigation but assume that all the goals are run again as you progress, once the bladder signal is less your run the simulation and the water cooler now is the highest ranked goal so you go with that. And then going back to your disk wins …
My way: the present state is registered in the temporal lobe. The body sensors are being registered and are ranked according to which is signalling the loudest. The thalamic nuclei are weighting the current needs and picking the action selection that most closely matches this need. It signal this selection by pushing out some action activation to the forebrain. At the current time the rewarding action of getting that one last screen filled out is being activated by the ritual parts of the lizard brain that this being projected to the forebrain and elaborated into the script for action. In this case it is the nested habits of being at work and the sub task of what you have learned as your job. The little reward of working on some task and completing it is the current sub-task and as you register the part that you have learned is the reward state (screen completed) the task state restart and is weighed against the pressing need to pee. Your action selection by the thalamus is now weighed higher for starting the peeing task. This script is matched with the sensed surroundings to find the closest matching combination of scripts that can match the need to the perceived environment. You select the script for peeing with the sub tasks of navigating to the bathroom and sub-sub-tasks of getting up, walking, doors, and so on. When you complete the peeing task the thirst sensor now is the highest priority signal (competing with going back to your desk) and it starts to project the needs for drinking. Again you match up your internal knowledge of where water can be found with your sensed environment and select the task of drinking with the sub-tasks of navigating and so on. Once you have satisfied the thirst need the ritual of work resumes as the highest priority task …
As I understand this - the needs sensors, learned scripts (rituals) and values of the scripts, are combined to select actions. The goals and associated weighting of the cost of access are not simulation but simple summing and selection. This summing is done at the cortex level and the subcortical structures make the choice from the alternatives presented by the cortex. There is an evaluation process where the needs are presented to the forebrain and a competitive process matches up the possible choices with the current perception. I have to point out that this is NOT a simulation but an analog weighting and selection. After all - this is being done with nerves that sum inputs and fire if the inputs exceed a certain threshold.
The ability to allow the activation to be projected back to the stored memories and add additional perception (memory) by considering costs of sub-tasks (thinking) is the closest this ever gets to simulation. I see this as a different thing as the search tree is driven by the weighted needs. It ends up doing about the same things but the mechanisms are very different. Projecting your “self” through all of search space and settling on the most appealing is distinctly different from having some need combine with with perception to select the best fitting action (lowest cost) from your learned repertory. I can elaborate on the the selection method in the forebrain but this is getting to be a fairly long Wall-Of-Text at this point.
What was your consciousness doing in all this?
- “Let me get this one last thing entered, then I will go pee.”
- “Woo hoo - got another one done!”
- “Really gotta pee”
- On the way back, “oh - I could go for some water - better stop by the cooler.”
All the steps in-between are on auto-pilot and not a lot of thinking going on.