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Learning and Representation of Hierarchical Concepts in Hippocampus and Prefrontal Cortex

By 16 September 2021September 22nd, 2021News, Research

New paper on hierarchical concepts is out in Journal of Neuroscience:

A key aspect of conceptual knowledge is that it can be flexibly applied at different levels of abstraction, implying a hierarchical organization. It is yet unclear how this hierarchical structure is acquired and represented in the brain. Here we investigate the computations underlying the acquisition and representation of the hierarchical structure of conceptual knowledge in the hippocampal-prefrontal system of 32 human participants (22 females). We assessed the hierarchical nature of learning during a novel tree-like categorization task via computational model comparisons. The winning model allowed to extract and quantify estimates for accumulation and updating of hierarchical compared with single-feature-based concepts from behavior. We find that mPFC tracks accumulation of hierarchical conceptual knowledge over time, and mPFC and hippocampus both support trial-to-trial updating. As a function of those learning parameters, mPFC and hippocampus further show connectivity changes to rostro-lateral PFC, which ultimately represented the hierarchical structure of the concept in the final stages of learning. Our results suggest that mPFC and hippocampus support the integration of accumulated evidence and instantaneous updates into hierarchical concept representations in rostro-lateral PFC.

Theves, S, Neville, DA, Fernández, G, &  Doeller, CF  (2021). Learning and representation of hierarchical concepts in hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Journal of Neuroscience,