Learning to form appropriate, task-relevant working memory representations is a complex process central to cognition. Gating models frame working memory as a collection of past observations and use reinforcement learning (RL) to solve the problem of when to update these observations. Investigation of how gating models relate to brain and behavior remains, however, at an early stage. The current study sought to explore the ability of simple RL gating models to replicate rule learning behavior in rats. Rats were trained in a maze-based spatial learning task that required animals to make trial-by-trial choices contingent upon their previous experience. Using an abstract version of this task, we tested the ability of two gating algorithms, one based on the Actor-Critic and the other on the State-Action-Reward-State-Action (SARSA) algorithm, to generate behavior consistent with the rats'. Both models produced rule-acquisition behavior consistent with the experimental data, though only the SARSA gating model mirrored faster learning following rule reversal. We also found that both gating models learned multiple strategies in solving the initial task, a property which highlights the multi-agent nature of such models and which is of importance in considering the neural basis of individual differences in behavior.
Keywords: working memory, reinforcement learning, gating models
Citation: Lloyd K, Becker N, Jones MW and Bogacz R (2012) Learning to use working memory: a reinforcement learning gating model of rule acquisition in rats. Front. Comput. Neurosci. 6:87. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2012.00087
Received: 17 July 2012; Accepted: 05 October 2012;
Published online: 30 October 2012.
Edited by:David Hansel, University of Paris, France
Copyright © 2012 Lloyd, Becker, Jones and Bogacz. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
*Correspondence: Kevin Lloyd, Intelligent Systems Laboratory, Department of Computer Science, University of Bristol, Merchant Venturers Building, Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1UB, UK. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org