In a recent human study, German scientists found that different stimuli do not necessarily make the learning task more difficult. And that variance can be an important benefit for learning because it promotes generalization. Research shows that the type of training can affect the brain's learning strategy. As learning happens in the brain, the findings were published in the journal Current Biology.
A fundamental problem with cognition is filtering out relevant information from a variable environment. It is well known that the visual system does this by learning what information holds constant. For example, people can always recognize a dog even if the perspective changes or the dog is wearing a dog jacket. This generalization process improves cognitive performance and is called cognitive learning. Previously, it was unclear how large-scale changes in the environment would affect this learning process.
Previously thought to be different stimuli, scientists from the German Center for Primate Research (Leibniz Institute for Primates and European Institute for Neuroscience) found that this variability could be an advantage. It is also important for learning. Applying learned behavior to new stimuli because it promotes generalization
The new study is based on two assumptions. In totalization strategies, learning requires neurons to ignore non-critical stimuli. In mastery strategies, learning occurs through closely paired neurons with task-relevant and non-relevant properties. In this study, four groups of volunteers were trained to recognize subtle differences in line pattern orientation. A related task is to determine if the line is skewed clockwise or counterclockwise. And two training sets in which the number of line rows was changed during the experiment.
A computer simulation of the neural network training procedure also confirmed the hypothesis of the summary strategy. This study suggests that the type of training can affect the brain's learning strategy. And perhaps where the brain's learning takes place, more training styles mean people are better able to deal with new challenges.
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