Developing Intelligence

Archives for January, 2009

A lot has been written about domain-general processing in prefrontal cortex, and a very old lesson often gets overlooked: there are very basic hemispheric asymmetries (particularly in PFC) that divide information processing by modality. A very nice study by Morimoto et al provide a nice reminder of this important feature of neuronal organization, and illustrates…

It’s been said that psychology is a primitive discipline – stuck in the equivalent of pre-Newtonian physics. Supposedly we haven’t discovered the basic principles underlying cognition, and are instead engaged in a kind of stamp collecting: arguing about probabilities that various pseudo-regularities are real, without having any overarching theory. Some of this criticism is deserved,…

Reductionism in the neurosciences has been incredibly productive, but it has been difficult to reconstruct how high-level behaviors emerge from the myriad biological mechanisms discovered with such reductionistic methods. This is most clearly true in the case of the motor system, which has long been studied as the programming of motor actions (at its least…

Blogging on the Brain (Finally!)

Refining the Turing Test: If it looks like a human, plays like a human, fights like a human, it’s probably a …. Using your own child in developmental research: An ethical issue? Mice, math and drugs: On science without understanding. How much will new data mining techniques subvert the scientific method? Distortions in Introspection: Do…

An astonishing recent discovery in computational neuroscience is the relationship between dopamine and the “temporal differences” reinforcement learning algorithm (which Jake describes wonderfully here, and I’ve described in a little more detail here). The essential principle is that the difference between expected and received reward can be used to drive learning, and that this abstract…

Synaesthesia refers to the phenomenon where certain perceptual stimuli induce an unrelated and illusory perception – for example, a digit-color synaesthete may experience a sensation of the color green whenever exposed to the number 3. The relationships between the inducers and the induced synaesthetic experience are widely considered random; one anecodotal explanation is that letter-color…

“Priming” refers to a pervasive phenomenon in which the repetition of a particular stimulus, response, or thought process facilitates its subsequent use. Might this phenomenon extend to more “executive” capacities as well?

There’s little evidence that “staging” the training of neural networks on language-like input – feeding them part of the problem space initially, and scaling that up as they learn – confers any consistent benefit in terms of their long term learning (as reviewed yesterday). To summarize that post, early computational demonstrations of the importance of…

An early classic in computational neuroscience was a 1993 paper by Elman called “The Importance of Starting Small.” The paper describes how initial limitations in a network’s memory capacity could actually be beneficial to its learning of complex sentences, relative to networks that were “adult-like” from the start. This still seems like a beautiful idea…

The ability to suppress unwanted thoughts and actions is thought (by some) to be crucial in your ability to control behavior. However, alternative perspectives suggest that this emphasis on suppression or “inhibition” is misplaced. These perspectives, largely motivated by computational models of the brain, suggest that alternative abilities (such as the activation or “active maintenance”…