Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Measurement of thoughts during knowledge acquisition

25.03.2019

How does the brain represent our knowledge of the world? Does it have a kind of map, similar to our sense of direction? And if so, how is it organized? Stephanie Theves and Christian F. Doeller from the MPI CBS in Leipzig have come one step closer to demonstrating the existence of such a mental navigation system.

In a recent learning study they were able to show that new conceptual information is stored along spatial dimensions in form of a mental map located in the hippocampus.


The study shows that new conceptual information is stored along spatial dimensions in form of a mental map located in the hippocampus - here as an example the concept of "Mexico".

© MPI CBS

Together with colleagues from the Donders Institute at Radboud University in Nijmegen, they observed brain activity patterns that support the idea that the neural mechanisms that support navigation in physical space might also be involved in conceptual learning.

"We, as humans, are remarkably flexible in the use of our knowledge: For instance we are able to apply what we have learned during only a few experiences in novel situations or to problems that have never been directly experienced before," explains study author Theves.

"If you walk through the city you live in, you’re able to take a shortcut without ever having tried it before. This is because the brain represents the spatial layout of the city. This might also be the case for representing knowledge. We have a concept in mind of what distinguishes a racing car from a truck.

When we now spot an unknowkn vehicle, we can use the relation of relevant properties, such as engine power and weight, to locate the new vehicle in our mental map in order to identify which type of vehicle we’re looking at. So we might draw conclusion unconsciously, by placing the new exemplars appropriately within a mental map."

In their study, participants acquired a new concept over the course of two days. For this purpose they learned to classify novel abstract images into two categories based on specific image-features. Following this learning phase, the MRI scanner was used to test whether the brain combines and stores the feature dimensions that were relevant to the acquisition of the concept in a map-like format in which individual images can be located.

"We’re interested in the learning process of new concepts because it allows us to measure distances within conceptual space as the knowledge is acquired," says Theves.

The scientist and her colleagues from the Netherlands determine how close objects are in mental space, by recording signals of the hippocampus in response to the objects. "What's interesting is that we can see an exact scaling of the objects in space, from which we conclude that the new information is organized in the brain in a map-like format."

The flexibility with which humans can apply knowledge, is likely due to this organizational structure, concludes Stephanie Theves. In the long term, the results could help to explain key aspects of human intelligence - such as the ability to infer or to generalize. Understanding how knowledge representations are acquired and organized in the brain could also be used to optimize teaching methods for efficient learning.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Stephanie Theves
Postdoc
Email: theves@cbs.mpg.de

Prof. Dr. Christian Doeller
Director
Phone: +49 341 9940-2275
Fax: +49 341 9940-2204
Email: doeller@cbs.mpg.de

Originalpublikation:

The Hippocampus Encodes Distances in Multidimensional Feature Space

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2019.02.035

Weitere Informationen:

https://www.cbs.mpg.de/1058998/20192503-01

Bettina Hennebach | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht X-ray scattering shines light on protein folding
10.07.2020 | The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

nachricht Surprisingly many peculiar long introns found in brain genes
10.07.2020 | Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The spin state story: Observation of the quantum spin liquid state in novel material

New insight into the spin behavior in an exotic state of matter puts us closer to next-generation spintronic devices

Aside from the deep understanding of the natural world that quantum physics theory offers, scientists worldwide are working tirelessly to bring forth a...

Im Focus: Excitation of robust materials

Kiel physics team observed extremely fast electronic changes in real time in a special material class

In physics, they are currently the subject of intensive research; in electronics, they could enable completely new functions. So-called topological materials...

Im Focus: Electrons in the fast lane

Solar cells based on perovskite compounds could soon make electricity generation from sunlight even more efficient and cheaper. The laboratory efficiency of these perovskite solar cells already exceeds that of the well-known silicon solar cells. An international team led by Stefan Weber from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz has found microscopic structures in perovskite crystals that can guide the charge transport in the solar cell. Clever alignment of these "electron highways" could make perovskite solar cells even more powerful.

Solar cells convert sunlight into electricity. During this process, the electrons of the material inside the cell absorb the energy of the light....

Im Focus: The lightest electromagnetic shielding material in the world

Empa researchers have succeeded in applying aerogels to microelectronics: Aerogels based on cellulose nanofibers can effectively shield electromagnetic radiation over a wide frequency range – and they are unrivalled in terms of weight.

Electric motors and electronic devices generate electromagnetic fields that sometimes have to be shielded in order not to affect neighboring electronic...

Im Focus: Gentle wall contact – the right scenario for a fusion power plant

Quasi-continuous power exhaust developed as a wall-friendly method on ASDEX Upgrade

A promising operating mode for the plasma of a future power plant has been developed at the ASDEX Upgrade fusion device at Max Planck Institute for Plasma...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Contact Tracing Apps against COVID-19: German National Academy Leopoldina hosts international virtual panel discussion

07.07.2020 | Event News

International conference QuApps shows status quo of quantum technology

02.07.2020 | Event News

Dresden Nexus Conference 2020: Same Time, Virtual Format, Registration Opened

19.05.2020 | Event News

 
Latest News

X-ray scattering shines light on protein folding

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

Looking at linkers helps to join the dots

10.07.2020 | Materials Sciences

Surprisingly many peculiar long introns found in brain genes

10.07.2020 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>