Orthogonal representations for robust context-dependent task performance in brains and neural networks

How do neural populations code for multiple, potentially conflicting tasks? Here we used computational simulations involving neural networks to define “lazy” and “rich” coding solutions to this context-dependent decision-making problem, which trade …

Complementary Brain Signals for Categorical Decisions

Apples come in various shapes, colors, and sizes, but humans can nonetheless easily distinguish them from other fruit (eg, peaches) or other round objects (eg, tennis balls). This capacity to assign complex and variable stimuli into discrete and …

Comparing Continual Task Learning in Minds and Machines

Humans learn to perform many different tasks over the lifespan, such as speaking both French and Spanish. The brain has to represent task information without mutual interference. In machine learning, this “continual learning” is a major unsolved challenge. Here, we studied the patterns of errors made by humans and state-of-the-art neural networks while they learned new tasks from scratch and without instruction. Humans, but not machines, seem to benefit from training regimes that blocked one task at a time, especially when they had a prior bias to represent stimuli in a way that encouraged task separation. Machines trained to exhibit the same prior bias suffered less interference between tasks, suggesting new avenues for solving continual learning in artificial systems.