Cognitive science senior Yongjing (Linda) Ren, who is double-majoring in Psychology, presented a poster at the 2021 Undergraduate Research Symposium, held virtually on Friday, April 9. The symposium was supported in part by the Weinberg Institute.
The title of Linda’s poster is “Modeling Age-Related Reductions in Neural Distinctiveness Using a Self-Organizing Map,” and her advisor is professor Thad Polk (Psychology). Read the summary below.
Aging impacts the brain in many ways, one of which is through reduced neural distinctiveness, where patterns activated by different stimuli become more similar to each other. It has been hypothesized that this age-related reduction in neural distinctiveness could be caused by reduction in the concentration of inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. The goal of this project was to examine if this hypothesis is plausible, by leveraging the causal relationship between a self-organizing map model’s inhibitory parameter and its activation pattern. Manipulations of the model’s inhibitory parameter led to successful prediction of the empirical correlation between GABA concentration and neural distinctiveness, and thus indicated that the causal hypothesis is plausible.
Well done, Linda!