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Assigning Function to Adult-Born Neurons: A Theoretical Framework for Characterizing Neural Manipulation of Learning.

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Neuroscientists are concerned with neural processes or computations, but these may not be directly observable. In the field of learning, a behavioral procedure is observed to lead to performance outcomes, but differing inferences on underlying internal processes can lead to difficulties in interpreting conflicting results. An example of this challenge is how many functions have been attributed to adult-born granule cells in the dentate gyrus. Some of these functions were suggested by computational models of the properties of these neurons, while others were hypothesized after manipulations of adult-born neurons resulted in changes to behavioral metrics. This review seeks to provide a framework, based in learning theory classification of behavioral procedures, of the processes that may be underlying behavioral results after manipulating procedure and observing performance. We propose that this framework can serve to clarify experimental findings on adult-born neurons as well as other classes of neural manipulations and their effects on behavior.

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