White- and Grey-Matter Damage Differentially Impair Learning and Generalization in a Computational Model of the Raven Matrices Task


Many preterm neonates have white-matter damage (WMD, damaged connections between neurons) and grey matter-damage (GMD, dead neurons). These children are known to have lower IQs than their full-term peers, yet the mechanisms underlying this association are poorly understood. We designed a developmental connectionist model of the Raven Matrices IQ task in which (1) all neurons had intact output, simulating normal development, or (2) half the neurons had noisy output, simulating noisy transmission or WMD, or (3) half the neurons had no output, simulating cell death or GMD. We found that damage increased task error. Further, WMD was worse than GMD overall, yet GMD was at once worse for generalization problems not given in training and better for training problems. Our model is the first to simulate an effect of perinatal brain damage on a cognitive task, and predicts that different types of brain damage may lead to different cognitive impairments.

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