Neural bases of learning and recognition of statistical regularities
Ordin, M., Polyanskaya, L. and Soto, D. (2020), Neural bases of learning and recognition of statistical regularities. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1467: 60-76. doi:10.1111/nyas.14299
Statistical learning is a set of cognitive mechanisms allowing for extracting regularities from the environment and segmenting continuous sensory input into discrete units. The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) (N = 25) in conjunction with an artificial language learning paradigm to provide new insight into the neural mechanisms of statistical learning, considering both the online process of extracting statistical regularities and the subsequent offline recognition of learned patterns. Notably, prior fMRI studies on statistical learning have not contrasted neural activation during the learning and recognition experimental phases. Here, we found that learning is supported by the superior temporal gyrus and the anterior cingulate gyrus, while subsequent recognition relied on the left inferior frontal gyrus. Besides, prior studies only assessed the brain response during the recognition of trained words relative to novel nonwords. Hence, a further key goal of this study was to understand how the brain supports recognition of discrete constituents from the continuous input versus recognition of mere statistical structure that is used to build new constituents that are statistically congruent with the ones from the input. Behaviorally, recognition performance indicated that statistically congruent novel tokens were less likely to be endorsed as parts of the familiar environment than discrete constituents. fMRI data showed that the left intraparietal sulcus and angular gyrus support the recognition of old discrete constituents relative to novel statistically congruent items, likely reflecting an additional contribution from memory representations for trained items.