Navigation Links
Brain may rely on computer-like mechanism to make sense of novel situations, says CU-Boulder study
Date:9/23/2013

Our brains give us the remarkable ability to make sense of situations we've never encountered beforea familiar person in an unfamiliar place, for example, or a coworker in a different job rolebut the mechanism our brains use to accomplish this has been a longstanding mystery of neuroscience.

Now, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have demonstrated that our brains could process these new situations by relying on a method similar to the "pointer" system used by computers. "Pointers" are used to tell a computer where to look for information stored elsewhere in the system to replace a variable.

For the study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research team relied on sentences with words used in unique ways to test the brain's ability to understand the role familiar words play in a sentence even when those words are used in unfamiliar, and even nonsensical, ways.

For example, in the sentence, "I want to desk you," we understand the word "desk" is being used as a verb even though our past experience with the word "desk" is as a noun.

"The fact that you understand that the sentence is grammatically well formed means you can process these completely novel inputs," said Randall O'Reilly, a professor in CU-Boulder's Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and co-author of the study. "But in the past when we've tried to get computer models of a brain to do that, we haven't been successful."

This shows that human brains are able to understand the sentence as a structure with variablesa subject, a verb and often, an objectand that the brain can assign a wide variety of words to those variables and still understand the sentence structure. But the way the brain does this has not been understood.

Computers routinely complete similar tasks. In computer science, for example, a computer program could create an email form letter that has a pointer in the greeting line. The pointer would then draw the name information for each individual recipient into the greeting being sent to that person.

In the new study, led by Trenton Kriete, a postdoctoral researcher in O'Reilly's lab, the scientists show that the connections in the brain between the prefrontal cortex and the basal ganglia could play a similar role to the pointers used in computer science. The researchers added new information about how the connections between those two regions of the brain could work into their model.

The result was that the model could be trained to understand simple sentences using a select group of words. After the training period, the researchers fed the model new sentences using familiar words in novel ways and found that the model could still comprehend the sentence structure.

While the results show that a pointer-like system could be at play in the brain, the function is not identical to the system used in computer science, the scientists said. It's similar to comparing an airplane's wing and a bird's wing, O'Reilly said. They're both used for flying but they work differently.

In the brain, for example, the pointer-like system must still be learned. The brain has to be trained, in this case, to understand sentences while a computer can be programmed to understand sentences immediately.

"As your brain learns, it gets better and better at processing these novel kinds of information," O'Reilly said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Randall O'Reilly
randy.oreilly@colorado.edu
303-492-0054
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Protecting specific area of the brain during radiation therapy substantially reduces memory loss
2. Johns Hopkins researchers erase human brain tumor cells in mice
3. Adult cancer patients younger than 50 with limited brain mets have improved OS after SRS alone
4. Avoiding specific region of brain during whole-brain radiotherapy prevents memory loss
5. Acuity Games Releases “Word Warrior” Brain Game App for iPhone and iPad
6. Researchers Identify Genes Tied to Breast Cancer that Spreads to the Brain
7. American Brain Tumor Association Seeks Inventive Ideas for Research Discovery Grants
8. UPNA develops a method that automatically delimits areas of the brain in medical images
9. Voices Against Brain Cancer Discusses Possible Breakthrough in Brain Cancer Treatment
10. New York Brain Injury Attorney Michael V. Kaplen of Law Firm De Caro & Kaplen to Lecture at Annual Brain Injury Conference
11. Diet Doc Weight Loss Plans Announces New Enteric-Coated 700 mg Pure Fish Oil Capsules, Shown to Strengthen Brain Cells
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... 29, 2016 , ... In an article published April 16th on ... Botox and lip injections, which she underwent in order to feel more at home ... Arts Festival. The article explains that Ms. Mirmelli’s situation is not unique; many plastic ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... , ... April 29, 2016 , ... On Tuesday, April ... across the Southeast, celebrated the signature of Gov. Nathan Deal on SB 258, the ... Duncan (R - Cumming), offers a 70% tax credit to individuals and corporations which ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... , ... April 29, 2016 , ... Coast Dental Fort ... 2016, at its new location in the Exchange Furniture Mall at 112 Vilseck Road ... a 50-inch Samsung Smart TV. Plus attendees will have the opportunity to meet general ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... , ... April 29, 2016 , ... ... of patented products, announces the Gyrociser, an exercise invention which aids in proper ... billion," says Scott Cooper, CEO and Creative Director of World Patent Marketing. "Globalization ...
(Date:4/29/2016)... ... April 29, 2016 , ... Reltok Nasal Products proudly announces that Boston ... and neck/ear, nose and throat specialty, has added the KOTLER NASAL AIRWAY™ to its ... is a newly patented safety device secured by nasal surgeons onto the floor ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:4/27/2016)... Tie-up with Government hospitals as ... to save newborns   Fortis La Femme, ... collaboration with Breast Milk Foundation (BMF), a non-profit organization within ... Bank, ,Amaara, in Delhi-NCR today. This non-profit centre recognizes that ... and should be available to babies deprived of mother,s milk.  ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... Shire plc (LSE: SHP, NASDAQ: ... Financial Officer, will present at the Deutsche Bank 41st Annual ... on Wednesday, May 04, 2016, 10:00 am EDT (15:00 BST). ... the Presentations and Webcasts section of Shire,s Investor website at ... be available on this same website for approximately 90 days. ...
(Date:4/27/2016)... , April 27, 2016 ... ), a developer of a new generation of ... positive overall survival results for Paclical/Apealea in the ... 789 patients with epithelial ovarian cancer. These preliminary ... Paclical/Apealea in combination with carboplatin versus Taxol in ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: