Hippocampal Contributions to Control: The Third Way

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 20 (NIPS 2007)

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Máté Lengyel, Peter Dayan


Recent experimental studies have focused on the specialization of different neural structures for different types of instrumental behavior. Recent theoretical work has provided normative accounts for why there should be more than one control system, and how the output of different controllers can be integrated. Two par- ticlar controllers have been identified, one associated with a forward model and the prefrontal cortex and a second associated with computationally simpler, habit- ual, actor-critic methods and part of the striatum. We argue here for the normative appropriateness of an additional, but so far marginalized control system, associ- ated with episodic memory, and involving the hippocampus and medial temporal cortices. We analyze in depth a class of simple environments to show that episodic control should be useful in a range of cases characterized by complexity and in- ferential noise, and most particularly at the very early stages of learning, long before habitization has set in. We interpret data on the transfer of control from the hippocampus to the striatum in the light of this hypothesis.