The brain applies data pressure to make decisions

The brain applies data pressure to make decisions

George Costanza’s Frogger Arcade video game from the episode The Frogger of the sitcom Seinfeld. Seinfeld Gallery: Apartment, 451 W 14th Street, Manhattan, Meatpacking District, New York City. Credit: Arturo Pardavila III from Hoboken, NJ, USA / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

If you were a kid in the 80s, or a fan of retro video games, you must know Frogger. The game can be very challenging. To win, you must first survive a series of traffic jams, then narrowly escape oblivion by meandering through speeding wooden logs. How does the brain know what to focus on in all this chaos?

A study published today (June 6) in the scientific journal natural neuroscience Provides a possible solution: data compression. “Compressing representations of the outside world is like removing all irrelevant information and adopting a temporary ‘tunnel view’ of the situation,” said study senior author Christian Machens, head of the Theoretical Neuroscience Laboratory at the Champalimaud Foundation in Portugal.

“The idea that the brain maximizes performance while minimizing cost using data compression is a prevalent idea in studies of sensory processing. However, it has not really been examined in cognitive function,” said senior author Joe Patton, director of the Champalimaud Program for Neuroscience Research. . “Using a combination of experimental and computational techniques, we have shown that this same principle extends across a much wider range of functions than previously expected.”

In their experiments, the researchers used a timing model. In each trial, rats had to determine whether two tones were separated with an interval longer or shorter than 1.5 s. At the same time, the researchers recorded the activity of dopamine neurons in the animal’s brain as it performed the task.

“It is well known that dopamine neurons play a key role in learning the value of actions,” Machins explained. “So if the animal incorrectly estimates the duration of the time period in a given trial, the activity of these neurons will produce a ‘prediction error’ that will help improve performance in future experiments.”

Asma Motiwala, the study’s first author, built and tested a variety of computational reinforcement learning models that were better at capturing neuronal activity and animal behavior. The models shared some common principles, but differed in how they represented information that might be relevant to the performance of the task.

The team discovered that only models with a compressed task representation could compute the data. “The brain seems to eliminate all irrelevant information. Oddly enough, it also apparently gets rid of some relevant information, but it’s not enough to take a real hit on the amount of reward the animal collects overall. It obviously knows how to succeed in this game Machens said.

Interestingly, the type of information provided was not only about the task variables themselves. Instead, it also captured the animal’s actions. “Previous research has focused on features of the environment independently of individual behavior. But we have found that only compressed representations that depend on the actions of the animal fully explain the data. In fact, our study is the first to show that the way Mutiwala represents and explained that the external world is learned, especially those which are as taxing as in this task, and may interact in unusual ways with how animals choose to behave.”

According to the authors, this discovery has broad implications for neuroscience as well as for artificial intelligence. “While the brain has explicitly evolved to process information efficiently, AI algorithms often solve problems by brute force: using lots of data and lots of parameters. Our work provides a set of principles to guide future studies of how internal representations of the world support intelligent behavior in the context of biology and AI. “.

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more information:
Asma Motiwala, Effective coding of cognitive variables underlies dopamine response and choice behaviour, natural neuroscience (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41593-022-01085-7.

Provided by Champalimaud Center for the Unknown

the quote: The brain applies data pressure to make decision (2022, June 6) Retrieved June 7, 2022 from

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2022-06-06 15:00:04

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