Relearning process not always a 'free lunch'
Researchers at Sheffield University and the University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom, have helped determine why relearning a few pieces of information may or may not easily cause a recollection of other associated, previously learned information. The key, they find, is in the way in which the learned information is forgotten. Details are published August 22nd in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology. When one learns a language and then doesn't use it, one may find that relearning a few words will trigger many others to come back and be relearned. The same happens with other skills that involve mental associations. The authors term this phenomenon "free-lunch learning." Previous work has shown that "free-lunch learning" occurs both in humans and in artificial neural networks.
In this study, co-authors Jim Stone and Peter Jupp created a mathematical model to show the opposite effect, called "negative free-lunch learning." These are cases in which relearning parts of forgotten associations decreases the recall of the remaining parts. The authors find that the difference between free-lunch learning and negative free-lunch learning is due to the particular method used to induce forgetting.
If forgetting is induced by random fluctuations in the strength of synaptic connections, then free-lunch learning will be observed. However, the authors show here that if forgetting is induced by directional decay in synaptic connectivity, then negative free-lunch learning occurs.
This suggests that evolution may have selected physiological mechanisms that involve forgetting using a form of synaptic drift, as in humans we typically observe free-lunch learning.
Source: Public Library of Science
- Embarrassing illnesses no bar to information sharingFri, 24 Jul 2009, 0:34:53 EDT
- As in humans, sleep solidifies a bird's memoriesTue, 12 Jan 2010, 17:32:18 EST
- Examining the brain as a neural information super-highwayThu, 2 Jun 2011, 18:34:36 EDT
- Disentangling information from photonsThu, 12 Jul 2012, 15:07:48 EDT
- Planned actions improve the way we process informationTue, 17 Jan 2012, 10:05:10 EST
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Learn more about
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Detection of the cosmic gamma ray horizon: Measures all the light in the universe since the Big Bang
- Facial-recognition technology proves its mettle
- New filtration material could make petroleum refining cheaper, more efficient
- Heart healthy lifestyle may cut kidney disease patients' risk of kidney failure
- How do cold ions slide