Having just posted a lecture on predictive processing that I gave two days ago, I come across this fascinating work from Schrimpf et al.:
Language is a quintessentially human ability. Research has long probed the functional architecture of language in the mind and brain using diverse neuroimaging, behavioral, and computational modeling approaches. However, adequate neurally-mechanistic accounts of how meaning might be extracted from language are sorely lacking. Here, we report a first step toward addressing this gap by connecting recent artificial neural networks from machine learning to human recordings during language processing. We find that the most powerful models predict neural and behavioral responses across different datasets up to noise levels. Models that perform better at predicting the next word in a sequence also better predict brain measurements—providing computationally explicit evidence that predictive processing fundamentally shapes the language comprehension mechanisms in the brain.Abstract
The neuroscience of perception has recently been revolutionized with an integrative modeling approach in which computation, brain function, and behavior are linked across many datasets and many computational models. By revealing trends across models, this approach yields novel insights into cognitive and neural mechanisms in the target domain. We here present a systematic study taking this approach to higher-level cognition: human language processing, our species’ signature cognitive skill. We find that the most powerful “transformer” models predict nearly 100% of explainable variance in neural responses to sentences and generalize across different datasets and imaging modalities (functional MRI and electrocorticography). Models’ neural fits (“brain score”) and fits to behavioral responses are both strongly correlated with model accuracy on the next-word prediction task (but not other language tasks). Model architecture appears to substantially contribute to neural fit. These results provide computationally explicit evidence that predictive processing fundamentally shapes the language comprehension mechanisms in the human brain.