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Unifying the mechanisms of the hippocampal and prefrontal cognitive maps

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Cognitive maps have emerged as leading candidates, both conceptually and neurally, for explaining how brains seamlessly generalize structured knowledge across apparently different scenarios. Two brain systems are implicated in cognitive mapping: the hippocampal formation and the prefrontal cortex. Neural activity in these brain regions, however, differs during the same task, indicating that the regions have different mechanisms for cognitive mapping. In this talk, we first provide a mechanistic understanding of how the hippocampal and prefrontal systems could build cognitive maps (with the hippocampal mechanism related to transformers and the prefrontal mechanism related to RNNs/SSMs); second, we demonstrate how these two mechanisms explain a wealth of neural data in both brain regions; and lastly, we prove that the two different mechanisms are, in fact, mathematically equivalent.

This talk is part of the Computational Neuroscience series.

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