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  1. Lifetime learning, or the change (or acquisition) of behaviors during a lifetime, based on experience, is a hallmark of living organisms. Multiple mechanisms may be involved, but biological neural circuits have repeatedly demonstrated a vital role in the learning process. These neural circuits are recurrent, dynamic, and non-linear and models of neural circuits employed in neuroscience and neuroethology tend to involve, accordingly, continuous-time, non-linear, and recurrently interconnected components. Currently, the main approach for finding configurations of dynamical recurrent neural networks that demonstrate behaviors of interest is using stochastic search techniques, such as evolutionary algorithms. In an evolutionary algorithm, these dynamic recurrent neural networks are evolved to perform the behavior over multiple generations, through selection, inheritance, and mutation, across a population of solutions. Although, these systems can be evolved to exhibit lifetime learning behavior, there are no explicit rules built into these dynamic recurrent neural networks that facilitate learning during their lifetime (e.g., reward signals). In this work, we examine a biologically plausible lifetime learning mechanism for dynamical recurrent neural networks. We focus on a recently proposed reinforcement learning mechanism inspired by neuromodulatory reward signals and ongoing fluctuations in synaptic strengths. Specifically, we extend one of the best-studied and most-commonly usedmore »dynamic recurrent neural networks to incorporate the reinforcement learning mechanism. First, we demonstrate that this extended dynamical system (model and learning mechanism) can autonomously learn to perform a central pattern generation task. Second, we compare the robustness and efficiency of the reinforcement learning rules in relation to two baseline models, a random walk and a hill-climbing walk through parameter space. Third, we systematically study the effect of the different meta-parameters of the learning mechanism on the behavioral learning performance. Finally, we report on preliminary results exploring the generality and scalability of this learning mechanism for dynamical neural networks as well as directions for future work.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 8, 2023
  2. Cejkova, Jitka ; Holler, Silvia ; Soros, Lisa ; Witkowski, Olaf (Ed.)
    In order to make lifelike, versatile learning adaptive in the artificial domain, one needs a very diverse set of behaviors to learn. We propose a parameterized distribution of classic control-style tasks with minimal information shared between tasks. We discuss what makes a task trivial and offer a basic metric, time in convergence, that measures triviality. We then investigate analytic and empirical approaches to generating reward structures for tasks based on their dynamics in order to minimize triviality. Contrary to our expectations, populations evolved on reward structures that incentivized the most stable locations in state space spend the least time in convergence as we have defined it, because of the outsized importance our metric assigns to behavior fine-tuning in these contexts. This work paves the way towards an understanding of which task distributions enable the development of learning.
  3. Multiple mechanisms contribute to the generation, propagation, and coordination of the rhythmic patterns necessary for locomotion in Caenorhabditis elegans . Current experiments have focused on two possibilities: pacemaker neurons and stretch-receptor feedback. Here, we focus on whether it is possible that a chain of multiple network rhythmic pattern generators in the ventral nerve cord also contribute to locomotion. We use a simulation model to search for parameters of the anatomically constrained ventral nerve cord circuit that, when embodied and situated, can drive forward locomotion on agar, in the absence of pacemaker neurons or stretch-receptor feedback. Systematic exploration of the space of possible solutions reveals that there are multiple configurations that result in locomotion that is consistent with certain aspects of the kinematics of worm locomotion on agar. Analysis of the best solutions reveals that gap junctions between different classes of motorneurons in the ventral nerve cord can play key roles in coordinating the multiple rhythmic pattern generators.
  4. Ahamed, Tosif (Ed.)
    Motile organisms actively detect environmental signals and migrate to a preferable environment. Especially, small animals convert subtle spatial difference in sensory input into orientation behavioral output for directly steering toward a destination, but the neural mechanisms underlying steering behavior remain elusive. Here, we analyze a C . elegans thermotactic behavior in which a small number of neurons are shown to mediate steering toward a destination temperature. We construct a neuroanatomical model and use an evolutionary algorithm to find configurations of the model that reproduce empirical thermotactic behavior. We find that, in all the evolved models, steering curvature are modulated by temporally persistent thermal signals sensed beyond the time scale of sinusoidal locomotion of C . elegans . Persistent rise in temperature decreases steering curvature resulting in straight movement of model worms, whereas fall in temperature increases curvature resulting in crooked movement. This relation between temperature change and steering curvature reproduces the empirical thermotactic migration up thermal gradients and steering bias toward higher temperature. Further, spectrum decomposition of neural activities in model worms show that thermal signals are transmitted from a sensory neuron to motor neurons on the longer time scale than sinusoidal locomotion of C . elegans . Our resultsmore »suggest that employments of temporally persistent sensory signals enable small animals to steer toward a destination in natural environment with variable, noisy, and subtle cues.« less
  5. Abstract Behavior involves the ongoing interaction between an organism and its environment. One of the prevailing theories of adaptive behavior is that organisms are constantly making predictions about their future environmental stimuli. However, how they acquire that predictive information is still poorly understood. Two complementary mechanisms have been proposed: predictions are generated from an agent’s internal model of the world or predictions are extracted directly from the environmental stimulus. In this work, we demonstrate that predictive information, measured using bivariate mutual information, cannot distinguish between these two kinds of systems. Furthermore, we show that predictive information cannot distinguish between organisms that are adapted to their environments and random dynamical systems exposed to the same environment. To understand the role of predictive information in adaptive behavior, we need to be able to identify where it is generated. To do this, we decompose information transfer across the different components of the organism-environment system and track the flow of information in the system over time. To validate the proposed framework, we examined it on a set of computational models of idealized agent-environment systems. Analysis of the systems revealed three key insights. First, predictive information, when sourced from the environment, can be reflected inmore »any agent irrespective of its ability to perform a task. Second, predictive information, when sourced from the nervous system, requires special dynamics acquired during the process of adapting to the environment. Third, the magnitude of predictive information in a system can be different for the same task if the environmental structure changes.« less
  6. Living organisms perform multiple tasks, often using the same or shared neural networks. Such multifunctional neural networks are composed of neurons that contribute to different degrees in the different behaviors. In this work, we take a computational modeling approach to evaluate the extent to which neural resources are specialized or shared across different behaviors. To this end, we develop multifunctional feed-forward neural networks that are capable of performing three control tasks: inverted pendulum, cartpole balancing and single-legged walker. We then perform information lesions of individual neurons to determine their contribution to each task. Following that, we investigate the ability of two commonly used methods to estimate a neuron's contribution from its activity: neural variability and mutual information. Our study reveals the following: First, the same feed-forward neural network is capable of reusing its hidden layer neurons to perform multiple behaviors; second, information lesions reveal that the same behaviors are performed with different levels of reuse in different neural networks; and finally, mutual information is a better estimator of a neuron's contribution to a task than neural variability.
  7. Artificial Life has a long tradition of studying the interaction between learning and evolution. And, thanks to the increase in the use of individual learning techniques in Artificial Intelligence, there has been a recent revival of work combining individual and evolutionary learning. Despite the breadth of work in this area, the exact trade-offs between these two forms of learning remain unclear. In this work, we systematically examine the effect of task difficulty, the individual learning approach, and the form of inheritance on the performance of the population across different combinations of learning and evolution. We analyze in depth the conditions in which hybrid strategies that combine lifetime and evolutionary learning outperform either lifetime or evolutionary learning in isolation. We also discuss the importance of these results in both a biological and algorithmic context.
  8. Understanding how brains and environments give rise to behavior is a subject of great multidisciplinary interest. C. elegans is well-suited for this work because of its relatively rich behavioral repertoire and tractable connectome. The chemotaxis of C. elegans is comprised of two complimentary strategies - “weathervane” (klinotaxis) and “pirouette” (klinokinesis) - that operate in parallel with one another. The present work seeks to characterize each strategy and its contribution to the overall chemotaxis behavior. We find that the contribution of klinotaxis is the primary contributor of chemotaxis performance in most environments, but that klinokinesis is effective in environments with faint stimuli, have few gradient sources or are noisy, particularly when it is integrating sensed concentration over a longer time-scale.