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MIT Researchers Explore How Rats Think

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the i-think-backwards-all-the-time dept.

Science 136

Ant writes "A Nature News article explains that, after running a maze, rats mentally replay their actions backwards." From the article: "As the rats ran along the track, the nerve cells fired in a very specific sequence. This is not surprising, because certain cells in this region are known to be triggered when an animal passes through a particular spot in a space. But the researchers were taken aback by what they saw when the rats were resting. Then, the same brain cells replayed the sequence of electrical firing over and over, but in reverse and speeded up. 'It's absolutely original; no one has ever seen this before at all,' says Edvard Moser, who studies memory at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim."

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Move over CS grads (5, Funny)

hobotron (891379) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704087)


If a rat knows the difference between a Stack and a Queue, you better start updating your resume.

Re:Move over CS grads (1)

rd4tech (711615) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704126)

If a rat knows the difference between a Stack and a Queue, you better start updating your resume.

"to iterate is rat, to recurse is divine", or maybe it should be: "to iterate is rat, to recurse human"

Re:Move over CS grads (2, Funny)

ComaVN (325750) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704349)

I'm sure you could have inserted a tail-recursion joke in there, too.

Re:Move over CS grads (1)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704139)

Are these duplicates the result of "Mind Control Parasites?" [slashdot.org]

Or do the parasites cause me to tune in on duplicates in some uncanny fashion - like slashdot midoclorians [chefelf.com]

Re:Move over CS grads (1)

MarkRose (820682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704278)

That's it! I'm naming my next pet rat Glibc.

Re:Move over CS grads (1)

Maxhrk (680390) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704342)

The Best Original Joke... ever!

Re:Move over CS grads (1)

panaceaa (205396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704345)

Oh, it's pretty easy to teach them. If it smells like poop [wikipedia.org] , it's a stack. If you start smelling garlic and olive oil, you're probably entering a queue device [wikipedia.org] .

backwards storage (1)

big ben bullet (771673) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704518)

Yeah... but do they store big endian or little endian?

Re:Move over CS grads (1)

babbling (952366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704954)

Do you think interviewers will resort to the same technique (maze) to rat out those CS grads that don't know the difference?

Re:Move over CS grads (1)

JavaLord (680960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14706261)

Wow, why can't people spell on Slashdot? Anyway, what kind of CS grad wouldn't know the difference between Steak and Quiche?

Rats suffer from Slashdotism (0, Redundant)

Centurix (249778) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704093)

Not only do they think in dupes, but they get to see the dupes in reverse and twice the speed!

Re:Rats suffer from Slashdotism (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704248)

Not only do they think in dupes

Yeah, anyone else read this and think "Not another interview with Darl McBride"?

Hmmm (0)

Bin Naden (910327) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704098)

Hmmmmm. Braaaaiiinnnsss.

Re:Hmmm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704104)

put your balls in my mouth

I found this very interesting. (1, Funny)

ian_mackereth (889101) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704106)

.gnitseretni yrev siht dnuof I

Re:I found this very interesting. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14706080)

Stupid fucking moderators- yet another example of fucktards who don't know the definition of Offtopic.
Lemme explain this to you morons : Offtopic means not at all pertinent or relating to the discussion.
Parent made a joke by spelling words backwards. This article talks about how rats figure out mazes by running them backwards in their minds. Thus, this is not offtopic, idiots.

I for one... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704113)

I for one welcome our backwards thinking, self destructive virus-laden overlords.

interesting... (1)

rd4tech (711615) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704115)

If this idea proves true in people, it could have many implications for human learning. It suggests that those idle times, perhaps spent gazing into space, are actually crucial for our brains to replay, and learn from, recent experiences.
Are dreams there only to help the learning process? Is there something more to them?

Re:interesting... (1)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704344)

If this idea proves true in people.

I'd be surprised if this proves true in people. Most people can't even remember where they parked their car.

Re:interesting... (4, Insightful)

Skreems (598317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704406)

Most creative thinkers already understand, at least intuitively, that the human brain will continue working on a problem even when a person is actively thinking about something else. How many programmers know that when you're beating your head against a problem, a good way to solve it is to go do something physical or repetitive, like play sports or video games or even sleep? Then when you come back, your brain has an answer for you, or at least has conceptualized the problem so you can get a better handle on it.

I don't know how much there is to officially back this up, but I think this is why OOP caught on so well, at least with some people. If you have a system made of interacting modular components, your brain doesn't have to conceptualize sections of some messy lines of ASM or C code... it can just use the constructs you've actually built into the system, so the "processing cost" of groking the system is much cheaper.

Re:interesting... (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704474)

Yeah, that's spot on. I can still remember dreaming visually with Java object during a particularly heavy project.

I thought at the time one could make a good VR programming environment - none of this silly lines of code stuff, instead you move classes and objects as visual structures (blocks if you like) so you can see exactly what is interacting with what.

Re:interesting... (1)

bmalia (583394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705960)

I am one who has beat my head against a problem all day, went to sleep, and woke up with a working solution in mind. It's weird when that happens.

Re:interesting... (1)

KH (28388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14706099)

... a good way to solve it is to go do something physical or repetitive, like play sports or video games or even sleep...

Yeah, I guess that's why I keep coming back to /. at work.

Re:interesting... (1)

rpcxdr (796317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14706479)

I imagine that taking a break from a problem helps - not because you are thinking about the problem - but because when you return to the problem you don't have so many competing thoughts blocking your thinking. (The same theory can be used to explain the top-of-the-tongue effect.)

Interesting (4, Insightful)

Belseth (835595) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704122)

Sounds like it's a way of setting important memories. Being able to navigate a course is important to a rat's survival. It'd be interesting to see if this happens with all memories or just the most important for the rat to recall. Stress causes memories in humans to become more perminate. There was a study where people held their hand in ice cold water to see how it affected memory. The shock of the cold water increased retention dramatically. I'd be curious if the levels of stress hormones went up as well. Rerunning the memory may be a stress reaction to important information.

Stress & studying for exams (2, Interesting)

eMago (267564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704391)

An interesting observation I made when studying for bigger exams:

a) There are "key days", where I panic about not being able to learn stuff in time and those are the days when I remember/understand stuff far better than on self-confident days. On "panic days", I learn 3x-5x more effiently than on self-confident days.

b) I might study a whole day long and dont understand or at least not being able to explain the formulas/problems/algorithms/whatever in my own words. And then I panic. When I have gone to sleep and wake up the next morning, however, all is there, unfolds in my mind in its crystal clear glory.

Sometimes I remember the dreams of those nights being about formulas and exams.

=> combining this evidence with your post and the article, leads to two points:

- Stress prepares certain areas for reorganising newly acquired memories.
- These areas then replay and reorganise the newly acquired memories during the night. The dreams are about some of those informations/processes popping up into the (dream-)conscious realm and the consciousness processing elements try to make sense from the basic subconscious information that is currently learn/trained.

If you have dealt with Experience-Based Artificial Neural Networks (EBANN) - they also learn in that way. They have some formal background knowledge about a problem, acquired/given externally (with humans its e.g. prior knowledge about the domain or just basic logic) and then optimise a Neural Network for working on a generalised class of examples for that problem. The optimisation is lead/constraint by the background knowledge.

Re:Stress & studying for exams (1)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705047)

An interesting observation I made when studying for bigger exams:
....
Sometimes I remember the dreams of those nights being about formulas and exams.


It pisses me off so much when I wake up dreaming about the problem I was working on the night before... as if work/school (same thing for me) has completely taken over my life.

In fact, it stresses me out more to be "stumped" than to have a deadline. I have to wonder if this is a natural learning strategy for some people - if you don't understand something at first, it causes stress, which ~overclocks your mind.

This is actually why I think that cramming *doesn't* pay off as well as staying on top of things. If I'm cramming, I'm forcing myself to ingest things rapidly and not focus on understanding the principles as much. If I stay on top of things, I end up focusing on problems one at a time and if I don't understand it I end up doing that stress/dreaming/realizing-the-answer-in-the-shower -and-never-forgetting-it thing several times instead of just once the night before.

Dominos Pizza now hiring deliver drivers (1)

80 85 83 83 89 33 (819873) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704603)

Dominos Pizza will be hiring rats as delivery drivers. after i made a delivery and arrived at the destination, i used the same techniques as the rats use! i would literally replay the course backwards in my head, reversing all the turns, etc (while smoking a bowl). after a few months in that "profession", i could go into any new city and keep my bearings easily. since i am amazed by the powers and skills of many animals and insects, i am honored to know i can compete with a rat!

Back-error propagation (1)

more (452266) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704756)

The only reason to do temporally reverse processing is, of course, error back propagation. The rat's logic and sensory data does not match 100%, and the difference is stored into special locations for later processing. When resting, rat uses this data, back propagates it through its network and adjusts the synaptic weights (weighted by the gradient of the neural responce) to obtain maximal behavioral change with minimal synaptic changes, ensuring locality of the behavior change. This is so obvious that I wonder that it ever hit the news. ;-)

Here's a brief summary (2, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705751)

Food...food...food...fuck...food...water...sleepy. ..food...food...sleepy

-Eric

Tomorrow's Headline (3, Funny)

themysteryman73 (771100) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704130)

Evidence finally found to support conspiracy theorists' claims of rats plotting world domination.

Re:Tomorrow's Headline (2, Funny)

rd4tech (711615) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704148)

42

Narf! (2, Funny)

(negative video) (792072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704253)

Evidence finally found to support conspiracy theorists' claims of rats plotting world domination.
But Brain, where are we going to find 500 dancing girls and a cubic meter of Silly Putty at this time of the night?

Re:Narf! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704421)

I think so Brain, but where are we going to find rubber pants in our size?

Dude! Where have you been lately? (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704418)

Evidence finally found to support conspiracy theorists' claims of rats plotting world domination.

Plotting? They have already acieved it! the species is called Rattus Politicianus, you it infests senate, parlieamentary and other government buildings world wide. There is also a lesser species called Rattus Lawyeriensis it is usually found chasing after ambulances or monitoring peoples internet connections looking for evidence of illegal music downloads.

Re:Dude! Where have you been lately? (1)

Associate (317603) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704644)

Totally under the radar.
I was going to go for the quick jab at congress.
But you seem to have done it with a little finesse.

ok. just johnny hold on (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704137)

mouthgaurds in we're shaking hands now!
Can they induce the maze path into the mouse?

the learning possibilities (3, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704140)

The discovery could also help to explain why people tend to learn a new task quicker when they take short rests between each practice round. It suggests that eliminating such breaks could actually interfere with learning, and perhaps even explain why hyperactive children often have learning difficulties.
This may be less about ADD/ADHD kids than about teaching style in general.

Any teaching style that will appeal to a hyperactive child, will more than likely be engaging for a 'normal' student.

Though it might be a stretch to suggest this could be extended to understanding hyperactive kids. AFAIK, they usually have abnormally low levels of dopamine and/or seratonin in their brains, while the article posits that "The rerun [for mice] could coincide with a burst of the reward chemical dopamine, which is released in the brain when the animal finds food."

Maybe they can find some hyperactive mice to run the tests on?

ADHD, schmDHD (1)

melted (227442) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704434)

Back when I was I kid there was a very good treatment for ADHD. You lack attention in school and your mother opens a large can of whoop-ass on you. Voila! You don't lack attention anymore (until your ass stops hurting at least). To me this seems like a better alternative to stuffing kids with psychotropic drugs.

Re:ADHD, schmDHD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704871)

And this magically changes the chemical makeup of the kid's brain how??

e.

Re:ADHD, schmDHD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705086)

no need

Re:ADHD, schmDHD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705696)

I know you're trying to be funny, but my wife's parents actually tried that on her. Didn't help a lick. She never felt "sane" until at one point in college she had a complete breakdown and decided "hey, who's in control here? my body or me?". She got on ADD drugs and has been happier since.

[posting anonymously for obvious reasons]

Re:the learning possibilities (1)

SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704484)

You do realise that hyperactivity is just one optional symptom of ADD/ADHD? Using the word "hyperactive" is missleading, since it's the attention span issues that are the hallmark of the disorder. I assume you already know this, since you used the term ADD, but many others don't know.

Kids are OK- Teachers are Boring, Parents are Lazy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705055)

Teachers need to learn from entertainers and stand up comedians,
be interesting or be ignored.

How many times have you had to sit through a class listening to someone drone on about
a topic you don't really care about?

I don't think more and more kids are 'catching' ADD (and require expensive drugs from pharma companies for the rest of their natural life...)

I think the quality of teaching in the USA needs improvement, as well as the quality of parenting.
Children used to behave out of love, respect or fear, but now they seem more out of control...

Re:the learning possibilities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14706283)

Sometimes its better to understand why the problem still exists after 4 billion years of evolution.Maybe there is a reason why a small percentage of the population cannot learn things at a normal pace.It is better in the long run for the species to have a small percentage of the population that are forced to think for themselves.Not that everything taught in school is wrong,but if there was only one thing wrong humans would not be able to right the problem in order to evolve.
    Untill all the pieces of the puzzle are firmly in place (without forcing them to fit),we are mearly guessing as to what the picture is.

brain == computer (0)

funpet (836434) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704143)

This reminds me of pushdown automata. Funny how everything in brain research seems to correllate to computer science. Could it be that the brain is a computer?

Re:brain == computer (1)

rd4tech (711615) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704163)

on learning [ship.edu]

Re:brain == computer (1)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704309)

So when people die...they just have a BSoD?

Re:brain == computer (3, Funny)

Ithika (703697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704468)

No, but when you die Netcraft confirms it.

Re:brain == computer (1)

barefootgenius (926803) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704310)

Or that computers were made by brains?

Re:brain == computer (3, Informative)

strider44 (650833) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704714)

You should perhaps read a book called Gödel Escher Bach by Douglas Hofstadter if you haven't already, which develops and expands that theory. It's *starting* to get a bit old at the moment but it's still absolutely fascinating.

How they think? (4, Funny)

neoform (551705) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704144)

It's pretty simple, once they get the juice on someone, they squeal to the nearest narc.. obviously.

Re:How they think? (1)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704195)

Wish I had mod points, that's funny as hell.

Re:How they think? (1)

neoform (551705) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704282)

You're telling me, why does it take a team at MIT to figure that one out? I've always thought it was pretty obvious.

Meanwhile, at MIT, they're thinking... (-1, Flamebait)

lheal (86013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704169)

Holy electrodes, that was a great study.

We so rock. We figured out how rats thought.

Because we saw the cells firing while the rats were resting.

Because we saw how the cells were firing while the rats were in the maze.

Because we ran the rats through the maze.

Because we thought up this experiment.

Because we went to MIT.

Because Cal Tech wouldn't take us, and Illinois is only for really smart people.

That happened when knew we'd never get laid anyway, and we didn't want to get jobs, so we'd better find a way into grad school....

We rock. Rats thinking backwards, maze, MIT, chicks.

Rats thinking maze MIT chicks.

Rats chicks.

Chicks.

Re:Meanwhile, at MIT, they're thinking... (1)

zerried (906753) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704359)

This is possibly the dumbest thing that I have ever read.

Re:Meanwhile, at MIT, they're thinking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704443)

You should read your own post(s) more often.

Oh noooooooo... meanwhile they're thinking.... (1)

gd23ka (324741) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704397)

Ouuuchh... my head hurts.. I wonder why those stupid humans had to stick all that metal into my head?!?!

Never Before Has There Been A Comment Like This (4, Funny)

Doomedsnowball (921841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704173)

"It's absolutely original; no one has ever seen this before at all," says Edvard Moser.

Except for the rats, of course.

Re:Never Before Has There Been A Comment Like This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704286)

...and his noodleness [venganza.org] the creator!

free the rats (-1, Offtopic)

pixellette (954077) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704246)

Interesting idea, check this out, how people fight for their freedom nowadays... http://themilliondollarpalace.com/ [themillion...palace.com] It's a pity rats can't do the same to free themselves.

I know what they're thinking! (2, Funny)

ProstheticSwan (754025) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704258)

Pinky: Gee, Brain, what are we going to do tonight? Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world!

Real political science. (3, Funny)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704266)

MIT is studying politicians. They use rats since the rats won't pick the scientist's when they turn their backs.

Re:Real political science. (1)

LosManos (538072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704408)

hejdig.

Why this hasn't been discovered earlier is because these experiments are ususally done on politicians - there are no animal rights group, or any other group, fighting for their fair treatment.

And since these experiments have only been done on politicians earlier no previous experiments have shown any brain activity ever comtemplating earlier decisions.

/OF

Re:Real political science. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704743)

And since these experiments have only been done on politicians earlier no previous experiments have shown any brain activity ever comtemplating earlier decisions.
Well, yeah. No previous experiments have shown politicians with any brain activity whatsoever.

Re:Real political science. (2, Funny)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704820)

Ofcourse they didn't detect brain activity. Politician have MIBO-registers (Money In, Bullshit Out), not brains.

Interestingly enough.... (3, Funny)

ChrisGilliard (913445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704332)

The researchers found that some of the rats thought more about the maze than others. Here [cartoondepot.com] 's a picture of two mice. The one on the left thought much more about his performance than the one on the right.

I read this article twice... (1, Informative)

Saggi (462624) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704400)

I read this article twice and tried to come up with a good comment. But all that happened was that the words kept repeating themselves in my mind...

... and just think how many times you, my dear reader, will have to repeat this sentence in you mind. So stop resting and get back to work!

I suspect they will find the same true for people (4, Interesting)

icecow (764255) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704428)

Haven't most people walked through the halls of a unfamiliar building to their destination then stopped and reviewed how to get back out a few times (a movie in reverse sorta) in order to get it in their long term memory? or is it just me? I don't always do it, just when the path seemed complicated. I'd think doing this would be much more important to a mouse considering they have rival creatures towering over them like downtown buildings.

Whoa, I'm reading back my post and thinking WTF!

You mean laywers, right? (1)

jonr (1130) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704444)

I'm sorry.
(Not really)

Re:I suspect they will find the same true for peop (1)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704486)

Thinking "backwards" always fucks me up. I get my directions flipped and just end up confusing myself even more. I've either got to start from a landmark of some sort, or right from the beginning and retrace my steps that way.

Though I guess its worth nothing that i'm also one of those people who sucks at reading the alphabet backwards. And if i'm ever quizzed on "what letter comes before..." I generally have to pick a 'landmark' string of letters ('lmnop' seems to be easiest, dont ask me why) and quickly run forwards from that point to figure it out. A lot of my navigation, be it physical or statistical, tends to be like that. Doing the whole random access thing just tends to be difficult for me, i'm much better with patterns and comparisons. It's not too suprising to me though, i've always been a better artist than a mathimatician - and I sure love my video games.

I think some peoples brains just function differently. I don't know why really... maybe its genetics, maybe its stimuli, maybe its all just completely random. And if there ever comes a day when we DO know for sure, im going to be very very excited, and very VERY scared.

Re:I suspect they will find the same true for peop (1)

mikael (484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14706242)

I do that too - after going through a junction, look back and see which direction to take (two adjacent T-junctions with staircases are probably the hardest).

I've also noticed that when taking a new route for the first time, such as finding a room in a campus build never visited before, the outgoing path always seems twice as long as the return path.

There was an article about how London taxi drivers had larger hippocampi regions>/a> when compared to non-taxi drivers. [pnas.org]

Well... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704496)

overlords rat thinking backwards new out welcome, one for I.

And nobody has asked... (1, Interesting)

satcomdaddy1 (938185) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704508)

can we get the Toxoplasma [slashdot.org] to change their 'memories'?

Oh well.... (1)

Clazirus (953627) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704514)

Why bother what they thinking anyway? Even us (human @ homosapien) can't think what others think..they need to research that. After all the test and research using them as the test object?

back propagation learning algorithm (4, Informative)

S3D (745318) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704618)

The result is also of keen interest to those who study artificial intelligence and try to teach computer systems or robots to learn through reward and punishment. Some such systems already work by playing back a sequence of moves so that the computer can identify at which point it made the trial or error.
It's called back propagation learning [wikipedia.org] The algortihm is based on the error propagation backwards from the output nodes to the inner nodes of neural net.

Re:back propagation learning algorithm (3, Informative)

eMago (267564) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705820)

It could also mean http://www.answers.com/topic/reinforcement-learnin g?method=22 [answers.com] (Wikipedia itself is currently down). Reinforcement Learning (RL) is about learning from reward - and about finding optimal sequences of action. Especially for learning sequences over time - like the rats - it is THE method of choice. And yes, Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) are often used for representing the "optimal policy" in RL. The weights in those networks are then altered by the RL process.

You could describe the process in the rats brain as doing a "virtual policy search RL".

Pure Backpropagation for long sequences over time, on the other hand, is quite an intractable problem, because you have to feed so many time-states into the network.

Replay and Reward (1)

herwin (169154) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704646)

Sounds like a lovely way to learn how actions lead to rewards without the complications of the actor-critic approach. I'd like to see whether this learning is able to propagate the rewards backwards in a way that allows a change in reward to affect actions. At the same time, I'd like to know whether this can be used to learn the continuous dependence of the final rewards on the actions chosen. Finally, I'd like to know whether this reversal is more general--that is, can plans be reversed? If so, it provides a general learning mechanism for causation.

Re:Replay and Reward (1)

Schroedinger (141945) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705363)

This kind of temporal difference learning is the job of the cerebellum (short time scales) and the basil ganglia (arbitrary time scales). I would bet that the fact that the sequence is replayed backwards in this case is just arbitrary. The idea is to re-enforce the connections between the neurons that represent the learned sequence, as well possibly to train cortical neurons in gestalt like representions of the sequence.

You are right in that this type of sequencial inforamtion is capable of encoding causation. These hippocampal sequence representations are also relayed to the cortext, which is where plans are represented and executed.

The cortext is where this sequencial information is filtered. It's much slower to learn and tends to filter out only the most consistent sequencial patterns and their constituents. In this way it compresses the sensory input from the environment (as well as motor command feedback) into the most statistically significant causal relations. These relations along with goal state representations form the building blocks for plans.

more rats? (1)

carlvlad (942493) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704728)

thats one more thing to add to Wiki on /. subculture, aye?

Since they are Norwegian (1)

nih (411096) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704749)

wouldn't it make more sense to study the moose?

How rats think? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14704766)

how about investigating wall street?

Re:How rats think? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705257)

Well, compared to a maze, wall street [wikipedia.org] is quite simple. I don't think a rat would have any problems investigating it.

This has been seen before... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705957)

"It's absolutely original; no one has ever seen this before at all," says Edvard Moser.


This is not true. It has been known for years that humans learn language 'backwards'. The classic example is children who first say "nana" before "banana". I'm surprised someone in the field doesn't have other examples readily at hand.

It is an interesting study though.

Link to paper (requires Nature access) (2, Informative)

thcooke (954091) | more than 8 years ago | (#14704805)

The paper is available at Nature Advance Online Publications [nature.com] - if you have access.

I could have saved them alot of trouble.... (0, Redundant)

canning (228134) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705083)

Oh okay gotta turn left,gotta turn left ..... nope maybe it was right, yep right it was right ..... this looks familiar. Ok two lefts now and then a another right ..... oh yeah, now i can smell it. Just a little bit further .... a quarter turn left followed by a hard 180 degree right .... I can totally taste it now!! Here i come .... just a few more turns and that sweet reward is mine!!

I don't even care that this is the fourth time this morning, this never gets old. I wouldn't mind a glass of milk though, could someone hook a brother up???

Hmmm ... mmmH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14705160)

I wonder if this will help me retain what I've read?

?read I've what retain me help will this if wonder I

Nah, sounds like Yoda talking.

common trait (2, Interesting)

recharged95 (782975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705187)

Most animals are path oriented. Could be why cats & dogs can find their way 'home'. When taking our cats for a walk (yes, on a leash) into a new area, they always stay on a path. If we turn around, they pull us towards that same route back to the car (cause they want to go home...). And when they walk back appear more confident in stride. Considering rats are more intelligent, this theory does have traction.

Of course, it doesn't take a MIT researcher to figure that out, just funding and identification that's it should be important.


Data != information, data exploitation == information.

Memory Reading (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705366)

It seems like this could be the next step in reading minds, sorta. There have been stories about the new advanced lie detectors "reading your mind" in a way already. If they can nail down what is going on during those nerve replays, it would really just be a matter of getting a person to trigger those replays in their minds and record them. Granted, I think this is probably a long way off, but you know someone with the knowhow is probably already thinking the same thing. This could also have interesting applications beyond the invasiveness, imagine being able to recording your memories that you had when your first child was born and showing it to them when they grow up. Or replaying the first time you met your significant other, etc. Hallmark is going to make a fortune!

Soon to be followed by... (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705408)

The real goal of these experiments: How women think.

With the dating and the lipstick and the slaps in the face, hoy-vn-fra-gn!

There already is a case study going on. (1)

gadgetman (4992) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705499)

This is a duplicative effort. It is already being studied in Utah. There is an extensive case study going on ... I think it is called SCO v. IBM. And there are at least three related studies called SCO v. Novell, SCO v. Redhat, and finally, SCO v. DaimlerChrysler.

The studies seem to be quite comprehensive and even may shed some light on a rat variant that is pervasive in Washington state. But it is known that those rats are a bit more deceptive and may be able to escape the spotlight in these studies.

I don't think that this study will produce the quality of results we expect in the existing studies that are ongoing. All it will do is confirm what they already have exposed.

How Rats think... (0, Redundant)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705588)

1) Find cheese
2) Eat
3) Reproduce
4) Find burrow and Sleep
5) Return to procedure 1)

I wonder if the rat is reciting poetry (1)

Jim in Buffalo (939861) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705665)

Poetry like, say, "Shed Reading (Rattus Norvegicus) [plyrics.com] " by Black Flag, in which an expressive rat bemoans his fate.

Rats don't need to think (1)

imipak (254310) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705672)

Rats don't think because they don't have to, here in the UK anyway. They operate on the taxi-rank prinicple, i.e., they are compelled to take the first client who knocks on their door.

Just a little spot on Monday morning humour...

Back Propagation (1)

junkgui (69602) | more than 8 years ago | (#14705955)

Im to expert in neural networks but don't they use a technique called back propagation for refineing the connection between nodes... it seems to me that these rats brains must be using a similar technique? Does anyone know if research like this is being used to better neural nets in AI?

Cool (1)

StopSayingYouSir (907720) | more than 8 years ago | (#14706171)

Then, the same brain cells replayed the sequence of electrical firing over and over, but in reverse and speeded up.

Benny Hill was unavailable for comment.

New Science? (4, Informative)

ThePopeLayton (868042) | more than 8 years ago | (#14706447)

Sorry boys, But I have been studying Neuroscience for the last 3 years. Every lecture we have had on sleep, particullary REM, has taught that when you are sleeping your neurons will all re-fire in an organized manner. This is when your memories are "consolidated" from semi-long term to long term memories. This is why if you have had a particularly stressful day you can "re-live" that day in your dreams. However it has long been shown that "place cells" or neurons that store spatial location will fire in the direct same sequence in which they fired when the test subject was presented with a spatial puzzle. You can read about this in the book Neuroscience by Kandal.

In a Nutshell ... it looks less impressive (1)

fygment (444210) | more than 8 years ago | (#14706712)

a) researchers wired some rats and made them run up and down a straight run and watched some nerve cells fire;

b) researchers saw the same nerve cells activate in reverse order while the rats rested;

c) researchers speculate either wildly or obviously that the rats are replaying the event and that maybe the rats are mentally replaying the run, and that maybe it would be the same in a maze, and maybe this coincides with dopamine release (not observed or measured), and that if maybe that were so, it would maybe tell us something about memory.

d) researchers are thrilled because this has never been seen before and is what they would expect.

Now what the hell is that? Seeing an as yet unexplained, and previously unexpected, phenomenon and declaring it coincides with expectations based on speculation?

Perhaps the story started off as simply about a new technique that allowed monitoring of individual nerve cells (which is news worthy) and got embellished by the media who couldn't see the value of it.

The conclusion:

"It suggests that those idle times, perhaps spent gazing into space, are actually crucial for our brains to replay, and learn from, recent experiences."

is banal in the extreme. Sports psychologists, for example, call the process "visualization" and it has been a training technique for decades.

A sad commentary on science reporting no matter how you look at it.
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