Change in the relative contributions of habit and working memory contributes to expertise in serial reversal learning Open Access

Hassett, Thomas Cagan (2015)

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Multiple memory systems likely evolved to account for learning across functionally distinct environmental demands. Despite their independence, multiple memory systems simultaneously aid in learning so long as each system is able to account for learning on its own. Multiple memory systems may aid in the learning-to-learn phenomenon, and more specifically, in serial reversal learning acquisition. In serial reversal learning, subjects differentially respond to the same two stimuli across all trials of the task. At any given time, only one of the two stimuli is positively reinforced when selected. Once a preference for the positive stimulus is developed, the reinforcement properties of the two stimuli reverse (i.e., S+ to S- and S- to S+). Interestingly, performance on the task improves as subjects gain experience with the task demands. Naïve subjects reverse gradually while experts exhibit rapid reversals through win-stay, lose-shift responding. In the current study, we assessed whether the development of serial reversal learning expertise is facilitated by a shift in memory control, from habit to working memory. In Experiment 1, we alternated the duration of the inter-trial-interval between 1 and 30-seconds to dissociate the relative contributions of habit and working memory on responding. Our results suggest that responding in naïve and expert reversers is under habit and working memory control, respectively. In Experiment 2, we determined that working memory control facilitates the transfer of expertise to a novel image set. In Experiment 3, we used two alternating concurrent cognitive demands to disrupt working memory during win-stay, lose-shift responding. Together our results provide converging evidence that working memory control is integral to the development of expertise in serial reversal learning.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction. 8

2. Experiment. 10

2.1 Methods. 10

2.2 Subjects and apparatus. 10

2.3 Procedure. 11

2.4 Results and discussion. 12

3. Experiment. 15

3.1 Methods. 16

3.2 Subjects and apparatus. 16

3.3 Procedure. 16

3.4 Results and discussion. 16

4. Experiment.18

4.1 Methods. 18

4.2 Subjects and apparatus. 18

4.3 Classification Training. 18

4.4 Procedure. 20

4.5 Results and discussion. 21

5. General Discussion. 23

6. References. 28

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