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Attractor concretion as a mechanism for the formation of context representations


Mattia, R; Ben Dayan Rubin, D; Morrison, S E; Salzman, C D; Fusi, S (2010). Attractor concretion as a mechanism for the formation of context representations. NeuroImage, 52(3):833-847.

Abstract

Complex tasks often require the memory of recent events, the knowledge about the context in which they occur, and the goals we intend to reach. All this information is stored in our mental states. Given a set of mental states, reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms predict the optimal policy that maximizes future reward. RL algorithms assign a value to each already-known state so that discovering the optimal policy reduces to selecting the action leading to the state with the highest value. But how does the brain create representations of these mental states in the first place? We propose a mechanism for the creation of mental states that contain information about the temporal statistics of the events in a particular context. We suggest that the mental states are represented by stable patterns of reverberating activity, which are attractors of the neural dynamics. These representations are built from neurons that are selective to specific combinations of external events (e.g. sensory stimuli) and pre-existent mental states. Consistent with this notion, we find that neurons in the amygdala and in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) often exhibit this form of mixed selectivity. We propose that activating different mixed selectivity neurons in a fixed temporal order modifies synaptic connections so that conjunctions of events and mental states merge into a single pattern of reverberating activity. This process corresponds to the birth of a new, different mental state that encodes a different temporal context. The concretion process depends on temporal contiguity, i.e. on the probability that a combination of an event and mental states follows or precedes the events and states that define a certain context. The information contained in the context thereby allows an animal to assign unambiguously a value to the events that initially appeared in different situations with different meanings.

Abstract

Complex tasks often require the memory of recent events, the knowledge about the context in which they occur, and the goals we intend to reach. All this information is stored in our mental states. Given a set of mental states, reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms predict the optimal policy that maximizes future reward. RL algorithms assign a value to each already-known state so that discovering the optimal policy reduces to selecting the action leading to the state with the highest value. But how does the brain create representations of these mental states in the first place? We propose a mechanism for the creation of mental states that contain information about the temporal statistics of the events in a particular context. We suggest that the mental states are represented by stable patterns of reverberating activity, which are attractors of the neural dynamics. These representations are built from neurons that are selective to specific combinations of external events (e.g. sensory stimuli) and pre-existent mental states. Consistent with this notion, we find that neurons in the amygdala and in orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) often exhibit this form of mixed selectivity. We propose that activating different mixed selectivity neurons in a fixed temporal order modifies synaptic connections so that conjunctions of events and mental states merge into a single pattern of reverberating activity. This process corresponds to the birth of a new, different mental state that encodes a different temporal context. The concretion process depends on temporal contiguity, i.e. on the probability that a combination of an event and mental states follows or precedes the events and states that define a certain context. The information contained in the context thereby allows an animal to assign unambiguously a value to the events that initially appeared in different situations with different meanings.

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24 citations in Web of Science®
27 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Neuroinformatics
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:03 Sep 2014 12:37
Last Modified:08 Dec 2017 07:04
Publisher:Elsevier
Series Name:Neuroimage
ISSN:1053-8119
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.01.047

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