DO IT NOW
|What’s up? The hallmark of intelligence is the ability to learn new tasks. How does the human brain go about the task?|
|What’s new? The human brain, remarkable as it is, does not go about the task of learning in a very efficient manner. It uses a highly inefficient approach called “Reassociation.” We appear to learn new tasks simply by repeating the original neural activity patterns and swapping their assignments. Although “quick and dirty” it’s not the best way to learn.|
|So what? Why would the brain use less than the best strategy for learning?|
The hallmark of intelligence is the ability to learn. The brain may be highly flexible and adaptive overall, but at least over short time frames, it learns by inefficiently recycling tricks from its neural repertoire rather than rewiring from scratch.
Now, while observing activity in the brain during learning, researcher have seen evidence of a similar lack of plasticity at the neural level. They observed that test subjects could learn new tasks more easily if they involved patterns of neural activity within the intrinsic manifold rather than outside it. The researchers observed a highly inefficient approach called “Reassociation.” The research subjects learned the new tasks simply by repeating the original neural activity patterns and swapping their assignments.
Why would the brain use less than the best strategy for learning? The group’s findings suggest that, just as the neural architecture constrains activity to the intrinsic manifold, some further constraint limits how the neurons reorganize their activity during the experiments.
The brain’s motor cortex can be likened to an old-fashioned telephone switchboard, with neural connections like cables linking inputs from other cortical areas to outputs in the brain’s cerebellum. The researchers can’t yet rule out the possibility that reassociation is a fast interim way for the brain to learn new tasks; over a longer time period, realignment or rescaling might still show up.