Interactions of spatial strategies producing generalization gradient and blocking: A computational approach

We present a computational model of spatial navigation comprising different learning mechanisms in mammals, i.e., associative, cognitive mapping and parallel systems. This model is able to reproduce a large number of experimental results in different variants of the Morris water maze task, including standard associative phenomena (spatial generalization gradient and blocking), as well as navigation based on cognitive mapping. Furthermore, we show that competitive and cooperative patterns between different navigation strategies in the model allow to explain previous apparently contradictory results supporting either associative or cognitive mechanisms for spatial learning. The key computational mechanism to reconcile experimental results showing different influences of distal and proximal cues on the behavior, different learning times, and different abilities of individuals to alternatively perform spatial and response strategies, relies in the dynamic coordination of navigation strategies, whose performance is evaluated online with a common currency through a modular approach. We provide a set of concrete experimental predictions to further test the computational model. Overall, this computational work sheds new light on inter-individual differences in navigation learning, and provides a formal and mechanistic approach to test various theories of spatial cognition in mammals.

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PLOS Computational Biology, 14, 4, e1006092
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 Record created 2018-04-17, last modified 2018-12-03

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