Scientists have now discovered that in using such conceptual models to understand, a brain structure, The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), considered essential for decision making, is involved. A new study of mice published in Neuron today highlights advanced mental machinery that enables the brain to simulate various acts’ outcomes and make the right choice.
It is essential to decoding how the brain constructs mental models: what we do when we learn that, for example, one of the roads on the way to that new restaurant is closed for renovation.
In researching the neural basis of model-based learning, a significant challenge is that it always works in tandem with another technique called model-free learning. The brain does not put much effort into building simulations in model-free learning. It depends on acts that have, in the past, achieved successful results.
For instance, while traveling to your favorite restaurant, you could use a model-free mental approach. You don’t need to spend mental resources in the plotting of the path because you have been there before. You should only follow your ordinary course and let your mind concentrate on other things. The researchers set up a two-step puzzle for mice to separate these two cognitive schemes’ inputs — model-based and model-free. An animal first selects one of two centrally positioned holes in this task to stick its nose in. This action triggers one of two other side openings, each of which has a certain likelihood of supplying water for a drink.