- Learning sequences of actions : infant experiments and neural network models (2013)
- In our daily life, we carry out lots of tasks like typing, playing tennis, and playing the piano, without even noticing there is sequence learning involved. No matter how simple or complex they are, these tasks require the sequential planning and execution of a series of movements. As an ability of primary importance in one’s life, and an ability that everyone manages to learn, action-sequence learning has been studied by researchers from different fields: psychologists, neurophysiologists as well as roboticists. In the concept of sequence learning, perceptual learning and motor learning, implicit and explicit learning have been studied and discussed independently. We are interested in infancy research, because infants, with underdeveloped brain functions and with limited motor ability, have little experience with the world and not yet built internal models as presumption of how to interpret the world. A series of infant experiments in the 1980s provided evidence that infants can rapidly develop anticipatory eye movements for visual events. Even when infants have no control of those spatial-temporal patterns, they can respond actually prior to the onset of the visual event, referred as "Anticipation". In this work, we applied a gaze-contingent paradigm using real-time eye tracking to put 6- and 8-month-old infants in direct control of their visual surroundings. This paradigm allows the infant to change an image on a screen by looking at a peripheral red disc, which functions as a switch. We found that infants quickly learn to perform eye movements to trigger the appearance of new stimuli and that they anticipate the consequences of their actions in an early stage of the experiment. Attention-shift from learning one stimulus to the next novel stimulus is important in sequence learning. In the test phase of infant visual habituation with two objects, we propose a new theory of explaining the familiarity-to-novelty shift. In our opinion an infant’s interest in a stimulus is related to its learning progress, the improvement of performance. As a consequence, infants prefer the stimulus which their current learning progress is maximal for, naturally giving rise to a familiarity-to-novelty shift in certain situations. Our network model predicts that the familiarity-to-novelty-shift only emerges for complex stimuli that produce bell-shaped learning curves after brief familiarization, but does not emerge for simple stimuli that produce exponentially decreasing learning curves or for long familiarization time, which is consistent with experimental results. This research suggests the infant's interest in a stimulus may be related to its current learning progress. This can give rise to a dynamic familiarity-to-novelty shift depending on both the infant's learning efficiency and the task complexity. We know that for both infants and adults, the performance on certain motor-sequence tasks can be improved through practice. However, adults usually have to perform complex tasks in complicated environments; for example, learning multiple tasks is unavoidable in our daily life. In existing research, learning multiple tasks showed puzzling and seemingly contradictory results. On the one hand, a wide variety of proactive and retroactive interference effects have been observed when multiple tasks have to be learned. On the other hand, some studies have reported facilitation and transfer of learning between different tasks. In order to find out the interaction between multiple-task learning, and to find an optimal training schedule, we use a recurrent neural network to model a series of experiments on movement sequence learning. The network model learns to carry out the correct movement sequences through training and reproduces differences between training schedules such as blocked training vs. random training in psychophysics experiments. The network model also shows striking similarity to human performance, and makes prediction for tasks similarity and different training schedules. In conclusion, the thesis presents learning sequences of actions in infants and recurrent neural networks. We carried out a gaze-contingent experiment to study infants’ rapid anticipation of their own action outcomes, and we also constructed two recurrent neural network models, with one model explaining infant attention shift in visual habituation, and the other model directing to task similarity and training schedule in motor sequence control in adults.
- Infants in control: Rapid anticipation of action outcomes in a gaze-contingent paradigm (2012)
- Infants' poor motor abilities limit their interaction with their environment and render studying infant cognition notoriously difficult. Exceptions are eye movements, which reach high accuracy early, but generally do not allow manipulation of the physical environment. In this study, real-time eye tracking is used to put 6- and 8-month-old infants in direct control of their visual surroundings to study the fundamental problem of discovery of agency, i.e. the ability to infer that certain sensory events are caused by one's own actions. We demonstrate that infants quickly learn to perform eye movements to trigger the appearance of new stimuli and that they anticipate the consequences of their actions in as few as 3 trials. Our findings show that infants can rapidly discover new ways of controlling their environment. We suggest that gaze-contingent paradigms offer effective new ways for studying many aspects of infant learning and cognition in an interactive fashion and provide new opportunities for behavioral training and treatment in infants.
- Spherical harmonics coeffcients for ligand-based virtual screening of cyclooxygenase inhibitors (2011)
- Background: Molecular descriptors are essential for many applications in computational chemistry, such as ligand-based similarity searching. Spherical harmonics have previously been suggested as comprehensive descriptors of molecular structure and properties. We investigate a spherical harmonics descriptor for shape-based virtual screening. Methodology/Principal Findings: We introduce and validate a partially rotation-invariant three-dimensional molecular shape descriptor based on the norm of spherical harmonics expansion coefficients. Using this molecular representation, we parameterize molecular surfaces, i.e., isosurfaces of spatial molecular property distributions. We validate the shape descriptor in a comprehensive retrospective virtual screening experiment. In a prospective study, we virtually screen a large compound library for cyclooxygenase inhibitors, using a self-organizing map as a pre-filter and the shape descriptor for candidate prioritization. Conclusions/Significance: 12 compounds were tested in vitro for direct enzyme inhibition and in a whole blood assay. Active compounds containing a triazole scaffold were identified as direct cyclooxygenase-1 inhibitors. This outcome corroborates the usefulness of spherical harmonics for representation of molecular shape in virtual screening of large compound collections. The combination of pharmacophore and shape-based filtering of screening candidates proved to be a straightforward approach to finding novel bioactive chemotypes with minimal experimental effort.