Combining Computational Modeling and Neuroimaging to Examine Multiple Category Learning Systems in the Brain

Emi M Nomura, Paul J Reber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Scopus citations


Considerable evidence has argued in favor of multiple neural systems supporting human category learning, one based on conscious rule inference and one based on implicit information integration. However, there have been few attempts to study potential system interactions during category learning. The PINNACLE (Parallel Interactive Neural Networks Active in Category Learning) model incorporates multiple categorization systems that compete to provide categorization judgments about visual stimuli. Incorporating competing systems requires inclusion of cognitive mechanisms associated with resolving this competition and creates a potential credit assignment problem in handling feedback. The hypothesized mechanisms make predictions about internal mental states that are not always reflected in choice behavior, but may be reflected in neural activity. Two prior functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies of category learning were re-analyzed using PINNACLE to identify neural correlates of internal cognitive states on each trial. These analyses identified additional brain regions supporting the two types of category learning, regions particularly active when the systems are hypothesized to be in maximal competition, and found evidence of covert learning activity in the “off system” (the category learning system not currently driving behavior). These results suggest that PINNACLE provides a plausible framework for how competing multiple category learning systems are organized in the brain and shows how computational modeling approaches and fMRI can be used synergistically to gain access to cognitive processes that support complex decision-making machinery.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-202
Number of pages27
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012


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