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Abstract: Connectionist modeling offers a useful computational framework for exploring the nature of normal and impaired cognitive processes. The current work extends the relevance of connectionist modeling in neuropsychology to address issues in cognitive rehabilitation: the degree and speed of recovery through retraining, the extent to which improvement on treated items generalizes to untreated items, and how treated items are selected to maximize this generalization. A network previously used to model impairments in mapping orthography to semantics is retrained after damage. The degree of relearning and generalization varies considerably for different lesion locations, and has interesting implications for understanding the nature and variability of recovery in patients. In a second simulation, retraining on words whose semantics are atypical of their category yields more generalization than retraining on more typical words, suggesting a counterintuitive strategy for selecting items in patient therapy to maximize recovery. In a final simulation, changes in the pattern of errors produced by the network over the course of recovery is used to constrain explanations of the nature of recovery of analogous brain-damaged patients. Taken together, the findings demonstrate that the nature of relearning in damaged connectionist networks can make important contributions to a theory of rehabilitation in patients.
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