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Learning to form appropriate, task-relevant working memory representations is a complex process central to cognition. Gating models frame working memory as a collection of past observations and use reinforcement learning (RL) to solve the problem of when to update these observations. Investigation of how gating models relate to brain and behavior remains, however, at an early stage. The current study sought to explore the ability of simple RL gating models to replicate rule learning behavior in rats. Rats were trained in a maze-based spatial learning task that required animals to make trial-by-trial choices contingent upon their previous experience. Using an abstract version of this task, we tested the ability of two gating algorithms, one based on the Actor-Critic and the other on the State-Action-Reward-State-Action (SARSA) algorithm, to generate behavior consistent with the rats'. Both models produced rule-acquisition behavior consistent with the experimental data, though only the SARSA gating model mirrored faster learning following rule reversal. We also found that both gating models learned multiple strategies in solving the initial task, a property which highlights the multi-agent nature of such models and which is of importance in considering the neural basis of individual differences in behavior.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Comput Neurosci

Publication Date





gating models, reinforcement learning, working memory