Category Archives: Psycho-physiological Bases Of Engineering

Unexpected consequences of training smarthome systems with reinforcement learning: effects on human behaviours

S. Suman, A. Etemad and F. Rivest, TPotential Impacts of Smart Homes on Human Behavior: A Reinforcement Learning Approach, IEEE Transactions on Artificial Intelligence, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 567-580, Aug. 2022 DOI: 10.1109/TAI.2021.3127483.

Smart homes are becoming increasingly popular as a result of advances in machine learning and cloud computing. Devices, such as smart thermostats and speakers, are now capable of learning from user feedback and adaptively adjust their settings to human preferences. Nonetheless, these devices might in turn impact human behavior. To investigate the potential impacts of smart homes on human behavior, we simulate a series of hierarchical-reinforcement learning-based human models capable of performing various activities\u2014namely, setting temperature and humidity for thermal comfort inside a Q-Learning-based smart home model. We then investigate the possibility of the human models\u2019 behaviors being altered as a result of the smart home and the human model adapting to one another. For our human model, the activities are based on hierarchical-reinforcement learning. This allows the human to learn how long it must continue a given activity and decide when to leave it. We then integrate our human model in the environment along with the smart home model and perform rigorous experiments considering various scenarios involving a model of a single human and models of two different humans with the smart home. Our experiments show that with the smart home, the human model can exhibit unexpected behaviors such as frequent changing of activities and an increase in the time required to modify the thermal preferences. With two human models, we interestingly observe that certain combinations of models result in normal behaviors, while other combinations exhibit the same unexpected behaviors as those observed from the single human experiment.

Improving the quality of memory replay in RL through an evolutionary algorithm biologically inspired

M. Ramicic and A. Bonarini, Augmented Memory Replay in Reinforcement Learning With Continuous Control, IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 485-496, June 2022 DOI: 10.1109/TCDS.2021.3050723.

Online reinforcement learning agents are currently able to process an increasing amount of data by converting it into a higher order value functions. This expansion of the information collected from the environment increases the agent\u2019s state space enabling it to scale up to more complex problems but also increases the risk of forgetting by learning on redundant or conflicting data. To improve the approximation of a large amount of data, a random mini-batch of the past experiences that are stored in the replay memory buffer is often replayed at each learning step. The proposed work takes inspiration from a biological mechanism which acts as a protective layer of higher cognitive functions found in mammalian brain: active memory consolidation mitigates the effect of forgetting previous memories by dynamically processing the new ones. Similar dynamics are implemented by the proposed augmented memory replay or AMR algorithm. The architecture of AMR , based on a simple artificial neural network is able to provide an augmentation policy which modifies each of the agents experiences by augmenting their relevance prior to storing them in the replay memory. The function approximator of AMR is evolved using genetic algorithm in order to obtain the specific augmentation policy function that yields the best performance of a learning agent in a specific environment given by its received cumulative reward. Experimental results show that an evolved AMR augmentation function capable of increasing the significance of the specific memories is able to further increase the stability and convergence speed of the learning algorithms dealing with the complexity of continuous action domains.

Modelling the perception of time in the human brain through RL with eligibility traces

I. Louren�o, R. Mattila, R. Ventura and B. Wahlberg, A Biologically Inspired Computational Model of Time Perception, IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 258-268, June 2022 DOI: 10.1109/TCDS.2021.3120301.

Time perception\u2014how humans and animals perceive the passage of time\u2014forms the basis for important cognitive skills, such as decision making, planning, and communication. In this work, we propose a framework for examining the mechanisms responsible for time perception. We first model neural time perception as a combination of two known timing sources: internal neuronal mechanisms and external (environmental) stimuli, and design a decision-making framework to replicate them. We then implement this framework in a simulated robot. We measure the robot\u2019s success on a temporal discrimination task originally performed by mice to evaluate their capacity to exploit temporal knowledge. We conclude that the robot is able to perceive time similarly to animals when it comes to their intrinsic mechanisms of interpreting time and performing time-aware actions. Next, by analyzing the behavior of agents equipped with the framework, we propose an estimator to infer characteristics of the timing mechanisms intrinsic to the agents. In particular, we show that from their empirical action probability distribution, we are able to estimate parameters used for perceiving time. Overall, our work shows promising results when it comes to drawing conclusions regarding some of the characteristics present in biological timing mechanisms.

NOTE: See also H. Basgol, I. Ayhan and E. Ugur, “Time Perception: A Review on Psychological, Computational, and Robotic Models,” in IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 301-315, June 2022, doi: 10.1109/TCDS.2021.3059045.

Action selection strategy for model-free RL based on neurophysiology

D. Wang, S. Chen, Y. Hu, L. Liu and H. Wang, Behavior Decision of Mobile Robot With a Neurophysiologically Motivated Reinforcement Learning Model, IEEE Transactions on Cognitive and Developmental Systems, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 219-233, March 2022 DOI: 10.1109/TCDS.2020.3035778.

Online model-free reinforcement learning (RL) approaches play a crucial role in coping with the real-world applications, such as the behavioral decision making in robotics. How to balance the exploration and exploitation processes is a central problem in RL. A balanced ratio of exploration/exploitation has a great influence on the total learning time and the quality of the learned strategy. Therefore, various action selection policies have been presented to obtain a balance between the exploration and exploitation procedures. However, these approaches are rarely, automatically, and dynamically regulated to the environment variations. One of the most amazing self-adaptation mechanisms in animals is their capacity to dynamically switch between exploration and exploitation strategies. This article proposes a novel neurophysiologically motivated model which simulates the role of medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) in behavior decision. The sensory input is transmitted to the MPFC, then the ventral tegmental area (VTA) receives a reward and calculates a dopaminergic reinforcement signal, and the feedback categorization neurons in anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) calculate the vigilance according to the dopaminergic reinforcement signal. Then the vigilance is transformed to LPFC to regulate the exploration rate, finally the exploration rate is transmitted to thalamus to calculate the corresponding action probability. This action selection mechanism is introduced to the actor\u2013critic model of the basal ganglia, combining with the cerebellum model based on the developmental network to construct a new hybrid neuromodulatory model to select the action of the agent. Both the simulation comparison with other four traditional action selection policies and the physical experiment results demonstrate the potential of the proposed neuromodulatory model in action selection.

The brain as a communication network

John D. Mollon, Chie Takahashi, Marina V. Danilova, What kind of network is the brain? Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 26, Issue 4, 2022, Pages 312-324 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2022.01.007.

The different areas of the cerebral cortex are linked by a network of white matter, comprising the myelinated axons of pyramidal cells. Is this network a neural net, in the sense that representations of the world are embodied in the structure of the net, its pattern of nodes, and connections? Or is it a communications network, where the same physical substrate carries different information from moment to moment? This question is part of the larger question of whether the brain is better modeled by connectionism or by symbolic artificial intelligence (AI), but we review it in the specific context of the psychophysics of stimulus comparison and the format and protocol of information transmission over the long-range tracts of the brain.

An hypothesis that human perception can only be done in real-time if prediction mechanisms go ahead and save the gap caused by the processing of inputs, which actually cannot be done in real-time (plus further post-processing and adjustment of past perceptions)

Hinze Hogendoorn, Perception in real-time: predicting the present, reconstructing the past, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 26, Issue 2, 2022 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2021.11.003.

We feel that we perceive events in the environment as they unfold in real-time. However, this intuitive view of perception is impossible to implement in the nervous system due to biological constraints such as neural transmission delays. I propose a new way of thinking about real-time perception: at any given moment, instead of representing a single timepoint, perceptual mechanisms represent an entire timeline. On this timeline, predictive mechanisms predict ahead to compensate for delays in incoming sensory input, and reconstruction mechanisms retroactively revise perception when those predictions do not come true. This proposal integrates and extends previous work to address a crucial gap in our understanding of a fundamental aspect of our everyday life: the experience of perceiving the present.

Defining and measuring mathematically the level of knowledge, ignorance and uncertainty

Fujun Hou, Evangelos Triantaphyllou, Juri Yanase, Knowledge, ignorance, and uncertainty: An investigation from the perspective of some differential equations, Expert Systems with Applications, Volume 191, 2022 DOI: 10.1016/j.eswa.2021.116325.

People use knowledge on several cognitive tasks such as when they recognize objects, rank entities such as the alternatives in multi-criteria decision making, or for classification tasks of decision making / expert / intelligent systems. When people have sufficient relevant knowledge, they can make well-distinctive assessments among entities. Otherwise, they may exhibit some uncertainty. This paper establishes two differential equations, of which one is for the interaction between the knowledge level and the uncertainty level, and the other is for the interaction between the ignorance level and the uncertainty level. By solving these two differential equations under certain boundary conditions, one can derive that the proposed knowledge level indicator is equivalent to Wierman’s knowledge granularity measure up to a constant (exactly, ln2). Moreover, the knowledge level indicator and the ignorance level indicator are found to be in a complementary relationship with each other. That is, more knowledge implies less ignorance, and vice-versa. The results of this study bridge a critical gap that exists in the understanding of the concepts of knowledge and ignorance.

On how the exploitation-exploration dicotomy shifts to exploitation as humans get older

R. Nathan Spreng, Gary R. Turner, From exploration to exploitation: a shifting mental mode in late life development, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 25, Issue 12, 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2021.09.0010.

Changes in cognition, affect, and brain function combine to promote a shift in the nature of mentation in older adulthood, favoring exploitation of prior knowledge over exploratory search as the starting point for thought and action. Age-related exploitation biases result from the accumulation of prior knowledge, reduced cognitive control, and a shift toward affective goals. These are accompanied by changes in cortical networks, as well as attention and reward circuits. By incorporating these factors into a unified account, the exploration-to-exploitation shift offers an integrative model of cognitive, affective, and brain aging. Here, we review evidence for this model, identify determinants and consequences, and survey the challenges and opportunities posed by an exploitation-biased mental mode in later life.

On how physical movements shape the perception of time

Rose De Kock, Keri Anne Gladhill, Minaz Numa Ali, Wilsaan Mychal Joiner, Martin Wiener, How movements shape the perception of time, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 25, Issue 11, 2021, Pages 950-963 DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2021.08.002.

In order to keep up with a changing environment, mobile organisms must be capable of deciding both where and when to move. This precision necessitates a strong sense of time, as otherwise we would fail in many of our movement goals. Yet, despite this intrinsic link, only recently have researchers begun to understand how these two features interact. Primarily, two effects have been observed: movements can bias time estimates, but they can also make them more precise. Here we review this literature and propose that both effects can be explained by a Bayesian cue combination framework, in which movement itself affords the most precise representation of time, which can influence perception in either feedforward or active sensing modes.

Solving the “self-recognition on a mirror” problem for robots

Arianna Pipitone, Antonio Chella, Robot passes the mirror test by inner speech, . Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Volume 144, 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.robot.2021.103838.

The mirror test is a well-known task in Robotics. The existing strategies are based on kinesthetic-visual matching techniques and manipulate perceptual and motion data. The proposed work attempts to demonstrate that it is possible to implement a robust robotic self-recognition method by the inner speech, i.e. the self-dialogue that enables reasoning on symbolic information. The robot self-talks and conceptually reasons on the symbolic forms of signals, and infers if the robot it sees in the mirror is itself or not. The idea is supported by the existing literature in psychology, where the importance of inner speech in self-reflection and self-concept emergence for solving the mirror test was empirically demonstrated.