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At Mind Matters News: Researchers: Our brains use data compression to get things right


A recent experiment with mice showed data compression at work when the mice were making decisions about how to get a reward:

Sensory data are compressed when challenges loom; now researchers have shown that our brains use that AI-type technique for cognitive functions too…

Neuroscientists are well aware that, when processing data from our senses, our brains routinely block out information that is irrelevant to an immediate, pressing problem. A person who suddenly smells smoke from the kitchen might barely hear the ring tone of an anxiously awaited, important phone call just coming in.

But are the cognitive areas of our brains similarly adapted to priority processing? It can’t be done simply by simply blocking out irrelevant signals. The current research, using mice, points to a different technique for focused cognitive decision-making.

News, “Researchers: Our brains use data compression to get things right ” at Mind Matters News (June 8, 2022)
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The researchers noted in a preprint of the study that the mice almost always made the correct choice, but that the results became more variable the closer they were to the 1.5-second target. Previous research has shown that animals estimate their own ability to correctly classify different stimuli.

Adam Schrader, “Brain applies ‘data compression’ when making decisions, study finds” at UPI (June 6, 2022)

And where does compressed data come in? Greater compression resulted in some information loss but not total failure:

The team discovered that only models with a compressed task representation could account for the data. “The brain seems to eliminate all irrelevant information. Curiously, it also apparently gets rid of some relevant information, but not enough to take a real hit on how much reward the animal collects overall. It clearly knows how to succeed in this game”, Machens said.

Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, “The brain applies data compression for decision-making” at Eurekalert (June 6, 2022)

Eating very much concentrates the mouse mind; we just didn’t know that the mice use a technique somewhat like AI to do it. That fact may have implications for the future development of AI…

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Takehome: Curiously, we humans often invent things by design for a purpose and yet, when we find the same things in nature, some conclude that there is no design or purpose in nature…

You may also wish to read: A little-known structure tells our brains what matters now Work with monkeys and mice has shed light on the filtering role of a neglected feature of the mammalian brain. The cuneate nucleus (CN) in the brain stem turns out to communicate regularly with your prefrontal cortex and spine as to what you had better notice.

There's not much tech detail in the Eurekalert article, but this type of representation is more like indexing a file cabinet than compressing a JPG. The action plus sensory data is stored as a sequence in one of the cerebellum's microcomplexes. The next time this sensory pattern occurs, the appropriate action sequence is referenced and fired.polistra
June 9, 2022
02:54 PM

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