Objective: Growing evidence supports the importance of learning as a central deficit in preclinical/ prodromal Alzheimer’s disease. The aims of this study were to conduct a series of neural network simulations to develop a functional understanding of a distributed, nonmodular memory system that can learn efficiently without interference. This understanding is applied to the development of a novel digital memory test. Method: Simulations using traditional feed forward neural network architectures to learn simple logic problems are presented. The simulations demonstrate three limitations: (a) inefficiency, (b) an inability to learn problems consistently, and (c) catastrophic interference when given multiple problems. A new mirrored cascaded architecture is introduced to address these limitations, with support provided by a series of simulations. Results: The mirrored cascaded architecture demonstrates efficient and consistent learning relative to feed forward networks but also suffers from catastrophic interference. Addition of context values to add the capability of distinguishing features as part of learning eliminates the problem of interference in the mirrored cascaded, but not the feed forward, architectures. Conclusions: A mirrored cascaded architecture addresses the limitations of traditional feed forward neural networks, provides support for a distributed memory system, and emphasizes the importance of context to avoid interference. These process models contributed to the design of a digital computer-adaptive word list learning test that places maximum stress on the capability to distinguish specific episodes of learning. Process simulations provide a useful method of testing models of brain function and contribute to new approaches to neuropsychological assessment.
- Catastrophic interference
- Cognitive science
- Stricker learning span
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology