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:8/18/2017)... ... August 19, 2017 , ... ... Thailand presided over the Amazing Thailand Health and Wellness Tourism Showcase 2017 yesterday, ... Noppadon Pakprot, Deputy Governor for Tourism Products and Business at TAT said, “Thailand ...
(Date:8/18/2017)... ... August 18, 2017 , ... Mediaplanet today ... for active, healthy lifestyles and highlighting the importance of proactive eye and ear ... and shares the latest innovations in hearing aid technology. , In this ...
(Date:8/18/2017)... ... August 18, 2017 , ... The Dawn Johnson Insurance Group, a ... charity drive to generate community support for efforts to educate the local population on ... for all types of cancer. , Each day in America, roughly 4,600 new ...
(Date:8/18/2017)... ... August 18, 2017 , ... MLM Insurance Group, ... communities throughout southern Florida, is working to support the Take Stock In Children ... low income families. , The Take Stock In Children Foundation (TSC) offers guidance ...
(Date:8/18/2017)... ... 18, 2017 , ... “Emotions are sacred, valid, honored, encouraged. This is the ... company Generation Mindful. To help change the mindset of parents and educators from punitive ... created the Time-In Toolkit, which launched on Kickstarter 3 weeks ago and fully funded ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:7/31/2017)... Surgical, developer of ground breaking surgical navigation technologies, announced today ... support its strategic sales plan in Maryland ... Surgical has entered into an exclusive sales representative agreement with ... those markets. ... Spartan Medical Purchases 7D Surgical Technology ...
(Date:7/28/2017)... , July 28, 2017 EnvoyHealth, a Diplomat ... pilot a program for CleverCap LITE, a technology designed ... strives to deliver innovative health technology solutions and services ... CleverCap LITE offers medication ... high-tech bottle cover: ...
(Date:7/27/2017)...  West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc. (NYSE: WST ... 2017 and updated financial guidance for the full-year 2017. ... Reported net sales of $397.6 million, ... Net sales at constant currency (organic) grew by 3.9%. ... compared to $0.60 in the prior-year quarter. Second-quarter 2017 ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: