January 27, 2021

PsychRNN: An Accessible and Flexible Python Package for Training Recurrent Neural Network Models on Cognitive Tasks

Task-trained artificial recurrent neural networks (RNNs) provide a computational modeling framework of increasing interest and application in computational, systems, and cognitive neuroscience. RNNs can be trained, using deep learning methods, to perform cognitive tasks used in animal and human experiments, and can be studied to investigate potential neural representations and circuit mechanisms underlying cognitive computations and behavior. Widespread application of these approaches within neuroscience has been limited by technical barriers in use of deep learning software packages to train network models. Here we introduce PsychRNN, an accessible, flexible, and extensible Python package for training RNNs on cognitive tasks. Our package is designed for accessibility, for researchers to define tasks and train RNN models using only Python and NumPy without requiring knowledge of deep learning software. The training backend is based on TensorFlow and is readily extensible for researchers with TensorFlow knowledge to develop projects with additional customization. PsychRNN implements a number of specialized features to support applications in systems and cognitive neuroscience. Users can impose neurobiologically relevant constraints on synaptic connectivity patterns. Furthermore, specification of cognitive tasks has a modular structure, which facilitates parametric variation of task demands to examine their impact on model solutions. PsychRNN also enables task shaping during training, or curriculum learning, in which tasks are adjusted in closed-loop based on performance. Shaping is ubiquitous in training of animals in cognitive tasks, and PsychRNN allows investigation of how shaping trajectories impact learning and model solutions. Overall, the PsychRNN framework facilitates application of trained RNNs in neuroscience research.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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