288 pp. per issue
6 x 9, illustrated
2014 Impact factor:

Neural Computation

December 2013, Vol. 25, No. 12, Pages 3263-3293
(doi: 10.1162/NECO_a_00521)
© 2013 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Reinforcement Learning of Two-Joint Virtual Arm Reaching in a Computer Model of Sensorimotor Cortex
Article PDF (1.05 MB)

Neocortical mechanisms of learning sensorimotor control involve a complex series of interactions at multiple levels, from synaptic mechanisms to cellular dynamics to network connectomics. We developed a model of sensory and motor neocortex consisting of 704 spiking model neurons. Sensory and motor populations included excitatory cells and two types of interneurons. Neurons were interconnected with AMPA/NMDA and GABAA synapses. We trained our model using spike-timing-dependent reinforcement learning to control a two-joint virtual arm to reach to a fixed target. For each of 125 trained networks, we used 200 training sessions, each involving 15 s reaches to the target from 16 starting positions. Learning altered network dynamics, with enhancements to neuronal synchrony and behaviorally relevant information flow between neurons. After learning, networks demonstrated retention of behaviorally relevant memories by using proprioceptive information to perform reach-to-target from multiple starting positions. Networks dynamically controlled which joint rotations to use to reach a target, depending on current arm position. Learning-dependent network reorganization was evident in both sensory and motor populations: learned synaptic weights showed target-specific patterning optimized for particular reach movements. Our model embodies an integrative hypothesis of sensorimotor cortical learning that could be used to interpret future electrophysiological data recorded in vivo from sensorimotor learning experiments. We used our model to make the following predictions: learning enhances synchrony in neuronal populations and behaviorally relevant information flow across neuronal populations, enhanced sensory processing aids task-relevant motor performance and the relative ease of a particular movement in vivo depends on the amount of sensory information required to complete the movement.