Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Knowing without doing

Lerchner et al write a review in Nature Neuroscience of an article by Atallah et al. in the same issue which shows clear evidence that learning a new skill and expressing it are two separate steps that can be dissociated. From the article's abstract: "It is widely accepted that the striatum of the basal ganglia is a primary substrate for the learning and performance of skills. We provide evidence that two regions of the rat striatum, ventral and dorsal, play distinct roles in instrumental conditioning (skill learning), with the ventral striatum being critical for learning and the dorsal striatum being important for performance but, notably, not for learning. This implies an actor (dorsal) versus director (ventral) division of labor, which is a new variant of the widely discussed actor-critic architecture. Our results also imply that the successful performance of a skill can ultimately result in its establishment as a habit outside the basal ganglia."

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