Mar 7, 2023

What makes a neural network remember?

Posted by in categories: biological, chemistry, robotics/AI

Computer models are an important tool for studying how the brain makes and stores memories and other types of complex information. But creating such models is a tricky business. Somehow, a symphony of signals—both biochemical and electrical—and a tangle of connections between neurons and other cell types creates the hardware for memories to take hold. Yet because neuroscientists don’t fully understand the underlying biology of the brain, encoding the process into a computer model in order to study it further has been a challenge.

Now, researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) have altered a commonly used computer model of called a Hopfield network in a way that improves performance by taking inspiration from biology. They found that not only does the new network better reflect how neurons and other cells wire up in the , it can also hold dramatically more memories.

The complexity added to the network is what makes it more realistic, says Thomas Burns, a Ph.D. student in the group of Professor Tomoki Fukai, who heads OIST’s Neural Coding and Brain Computing Unit. “Why would biology have all this complexity? Memory capacity might be a reason,” Mr. Burns says.

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