A neural model of the development of expertise

Abstract

The ability to develop expertise through practice is a hallmark of biological systems, for both cognitive and motor based skills. At first, animals exhibit high variability and perform slowly, reliant on feedback signals constantly evaluating performance. With practice, the system develops a proficiency and consistency in skill execution, reflected in an increase in the associated cortical area (Pascual-Leone, 1995). Here we present a neural model of this expertise development. In the model, initial attempts at performing a task are based on generalizing previously learned control signals, which we refer to generically as `actions', stored in the cortex. The basal ganglia evaluates these actions and modulates their contributions to the output signal, creating a novel action that performs the desired task. With repeated performance, the cortex learns to generate this action on its own, eventually developing an explicit representation of the action that can be called directly. This transference allows the system to more quickly and consistently execute the task, reflecting development of expertise. We present simulation results matching both behavioral and single cell spiking data.


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