Hippocampal mediation of stimulus representation: a computational theory.
The authors propose a computational theory of the hippocampal region's function in mediating stimulus representations. The theory assumes that the hippocampal region develops new stimulus representations that enhance the discriminability of differentially predictive cues while compressing the representation of redundant cues. Other brain regions, including cerebral and cerebellar cortices, are presumed to use these hippocampal representations to recode their own stimulus representations. In the absence of an intact hippocampal region, the theory implies that other brain regions will attempt to learn associations using previously established fixed representations. Instantiated as a connectionist network model, the theory provides a simple and unified interpretation of the functional role of the hippocampal region in a wide range of conditioning paradigms, including stimulus discrimination, reversal learning, stimulus generalization, latent inhibition, sensory preconditioning, and contextual sensitivity. The theory makes novel predictions regarding the effects of hippocampal lesions on easy-hard transfer and compound preexposure. Several prior qualitative characterizations of hippocampal function--including stimulus selection, chunking, cue configuration, and contextual coding--are identified as task-specific special cases derivable from this more general theory. The theory suggests that a profitable direction for future empirical and theoretical research will be the study of learning tasks in which both intact and lesioned animals exhibit similar initial learning behaviors but differ on subsequent transfer and generalization tasks.