Stiso, Jennifer; Christopher W. Lynn; Ari E. Kahn; Vinitha Rangarajan; Karol P. Szmula; Ryan Archer; Andrew Revell; Joel M. Stein; Brian Litt; Kathryn A. Davis; Timothy H. Lucas and Dani S. Bassett

Humans deftly parse statistics from sequences. Some theories posit that humans learn these statistics by forming cognitive maps, or underlying representations of the latent space which links items in the sequence. Here, an item in the sequence is a node, and the probability of transitioning between two items is an edge. Sequences can then be generated from walks through the latent space, with different spaces giving rise to different sequence statistics. Individual or group differences in sequence learning can be modeled by changing the time scale over which estimates of transition probabilities are built, or in other words, by changing the amount of temporal discounting. Latent space models with temporal discounting bear a resemblance to models of navigation through Euclidean spaces. However, few explicit links have been made between predictions from Euclidean spatial navigation and neural activity during human sequence learning. Here, we use a combination of behavioral modeling and intracranial encephalography (iEEG) recordings to investigate how neural activity might support the formation of space-like cognitive maps through temporal discounting during sequence learning. Specifically, we acquire human reaction times from a sequential reaction time task, to which we fit a model that formulates the amount of temporal discounting as a single free parameter. From the parameter, we calculate each individual’s estimate of the latent space. We find that neural activity reflects these estimates mostly in the temporal lobe, including areas involved in spatial navigation. Similar to spatial navigation, we find that low dimensional representations of neural activity allow for easy separation of important features, such as modules, in the latent space. Lastly, we take advantage of the high temporal resolution of iEEG data to determine the time scale on which latent spaces are learned. We find that learning typically happens within the first 500 trials, and is modulated by the underlying latent space and the amount of temporal discounting characteristic of each participant. Ultimately, this work provides important links between behavioral models of sequence learning and neural activity during the same behavior, and contextualizes these results within a broader framework of domain general cognitive maps.