Friday, July 05, 2024

ChatGPT as a "lab rat" for understanding how our brains process language.

I've now read twice through a fascinating PNAS piece by Mitchell Waldrop (Open source, with useful references), and urge MindBlog readers to havve a look. Our brains, as well as all of the GPT (Generative Pretrained Transforer) engines are prediction machines. The following slilghtly edited extract gives context. simulations of language [are] working in ways that [are] strikingly similar to the left-hemisphere language regions of our brains, using the same computational principles...The reasons for this AI–brain alignment are still up for debate. But its existence is a huge opportunity for neuroscientists struggling to pin down precisely how the brain’s language regions actually work...What’s made this so difficult in the past is that language is a brain function unique to humans. So, unlike their colleagues studying vision or motor control, language researchers have never had animal models that they can slice, probe, and manipulate to tease out all the neural details.
But now that the new AI models have given them the next best thing—an electronic lab rat for language—Fedorenko and many other neuroscientists around the world have eagerly put these models to work. This requires care, if only because the AI–brain alignment doesn’t seem to encompass many cognitive skills other than language...Language is separate in the brain...there are left-side regions of the brain that are always activated by language—and nothing but language..the system responds in the same way to speaking, writing—all the kinds of languages a person knows and speaks, including sign languages. It doesn't espond to things that aren’t language, like logical puzzles, mathematical problems, or music.

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