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Behav Brain Res. 2010 Jan 20;206(2):157-65. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2009.08.031. Epub 2009 Aug 29.

Structure learning in action.

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Computational and Biological Learning Lab, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, UK.


'Learning to learn' phenomena have been widely investigated in cognition, perception and more recently also in action. During concept learning tasks, for example, it has been suggested that characteristic features are abstracted from a set of examples with the consequence that learning of similar tasks is facilitated-a process termed 'learning to learn'. From a computational point of view such an extraction of invariants can be regarded as learning of an underlying structure. Here we review the evidence for structure learning as a 'learning to learn' mechanism, especially in sensorimotor control where the motor system has to adapt to variable environments. We review studies demonstrating that common features of variable environments are extracted during sensorimotor learning and exploited for efficient adaptation in novel tasks. We conclude that structure learning plays a fundamental role in skill learning and may underlie the unsurpassed flexibility and adaptability of the motor system.

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