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Relearning Process Not Always A 'Free Lunch'

Date:
August 21, 2008
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Researchers have helped determine why relearning a few pieces of information may or may not easily cause a recollection of other associated, previously learned information. The key, they find, is in the way in which the learned information is forgotten.

Researchers at Sheffield University and the University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom, have helped determine why relearning a few pieces of information may or may not easily cause a recollection of other associated, previously learned information. The key, they find, is in the way in which the learned information is forgotten.

When one learns a language and then doesn't use it, one may find that relearning a few words will trigger many others to come back and be relearned. The same happens with other skills that involve mental associations. The authors term this phenomenon "free-lunch learning." Previous work has shown that "free-lunch learning" occurs both in humans and in artificial neural networks.

In this study, co-authors Jim Stone and Peter Jupp created a mathematical model to show the opposite effect, called "negative free-lunch learning." These are cases in which relearning parts of forgotten associations decreases the recall of the remaining parts. The authors find that the difference between free-lunch learning and negative free-lunch learning is due to the particular method used to induce forgetting.

If forgetting is induced by random fluctuations in the strength of synaptic connections, then free-lunch learning will be observed. However, the authors show here that if forgetting is induced by directional decay in synaptic connectivity, then negative free-lunch learning occurs.

This suggests that evolution may have selected physiological mechanisms that involve forgetting using a form of synaptic drift, as in humans we typically observe free-lunch learning.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Stone et al. Falling towards Forgetfulness: Synaptic Decay Prevents Spontaneous Recovery of Memory. PLoS Computational Biology, 2008; 4 (8): e1000143 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000143

Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Relearning Process Not Always A 'Free Lunch'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080821211553.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2008, August 21). Relearning Process Not Always A 'Free Lunch'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080821211553.htm
Public Library of Science. "Relearning Process Not Always A 'Free Lunch'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080821211553.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

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