Abstract representations emerge in human hippocampal neurons during inference behavior

Kavli Affiliate: Stefano Fusi & Daniel Salzman

| Authors: Hristos Spiridonos Courellis, Juri Minxha, Araceli Ramirez Cardenas, Daniel L Kimmel, Chrystal M Reed, Taufik A Valiante, C. Daniel Salzman, Adam N Mamelak, Ralph Adolphs, Stefano Fusi and Ueli Rutishauser

| Summary:

Humans have the remarkable cognitive capacity to rapidly adapt to changing environments. Central to this capacity is the ability to form high-level, abstract representations that take advantage of regularities in the world to support generalization. However, how these representations are encoded in populations of neurons, how they emerge through learning, and how they relate to behavior remains unknown. Here we characterized the representational geometry of populations of neurons (single-units) recorded in the hippocampus, amygdala, medial frontal cortex, and ventral temporal cortex of neurosurgical patients who are performing an inferential reasoning task. We find that only the neural representations formed in the hippocampus simultaneously encode multiple task variables in an abstract, or disentangled, format. This representational geometry is uniquely observed after patients learn to perform inference, and consisted of disentangled directly observable and discovered latent task variables. Interestingly, learning to perform inference by trial and error or through verbal instructions led to the formation of hippocampal representations with similar geometric properties. The observed relation between representational format and inference behavior suggests that abstract/disentangled representational geometries are important for complex cognition

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