Memory Transformation Enhances Reinforcement Learning in Dynamic Environments Memory Transformation Enhances Reinforcement Learning in Dynamic Environments
Paper summary ## Summary The research question the authors answered was whether by shifting from an episodic to a "schematic", or gist-like, memory system, a reinforcement learning agent could learn to achieve its goals in a dynamic environment. The authors focused on 2D navigation tasks where the reward locations constantly changed, such that new reward locations were correlated in the short-term but where independent and sampled from a stable distribution in the long-term. I found it interesting that the authors claimed the real world is like this, and consequentially they staked a lot of the significance of their work on this fact. **The main conclusion they came to was that given the existence of a stable long-term distribution for reward location (or whatever random variable the agent is concerned with estimating a distribution for), the optimal strategy for an agent is to shift from utilizing episodic to schematic memories slowly.** The authors implemented their agent using a novel neural network architecture that consisted of, in general, an episodic memory system, a schematic memory system, a critic to generate a TD-error. The episodic memory system was: * a spatial encoder which took in the (x,y)-pair of the current location of the agent, * an autoencoder implemented as a 3-layer recurrent network * a network of place field units The output of the spatial encoder fed into the autoencoder, and the output of this fed into the place cells. "Retrieving" memory from the place cells was implemented as a fully-connected sigmoid layer. The use of place field units was quite interesting; the idea behind this was to learn to associate activation patterns of place cells with specific locations within the environment where rewards were recently found. The schematic memory was implemented as a Restricted Boltzman Machine. The first layer was a direct projection of the place cells from the episodic network. The ultimate goal of the RBM was to learn a general statistical model of the reward locations. It was trained in an offline manner (i.e., while the agent was "at rest" between trials) by using random activity in the spatial encoder, and propagating that through to the RBM. This was curious, but apparently since they also had added a TD-prediction error to the episodic system via a critic, this was more biologically plausible than iid sampling from the episodic memory. The agent has a parameter that controls how much it can mix its episodic and schematic memories; the resultant "mixed" memory influences action-selection. ## Take-aways We're seeing a shift towards more complex RL environments that this could be applied to; for example, 3D navigation tasks where there are multiple goals that could potentially move over time. Perhaps this could also be applied to modeling of the dynamic behavior of other agents in a multi-agent setting? Cool use of unsupervised learning to enhance RL!
Memory Transformation Enhances Reinforcement Learning in Dynamic Environments
A. Santoro and P. W. Frankland and B. A. Richards
Journal of Neuroscience - 2016 via CrossRef

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