Representational drift: Emerging theories for continual learning and experimental future directions

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2022 Oct:76:102609. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2022.102609. Epub 2022 Aug 5.


Recent work has revealed that the neural activity patterns correlated with sensation, cognition, and action often are not stable and instead undergo large scale changes over days and weeks-a phenomenon called representational drift. Here, we highlight recent observations of drift, how drift is unlikely to be explained by experimental confounds, and how the brain can likely compensate for drift to allow stable computation. We propose that drift might have important roles in neural computation to allow continual learning, both for separating and relating memories that occur at distinct times. Finally, we present an outlook on future experimental directions that are needed to further characterize drift and to test emerging theories for drift's role in computation.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain*
  • Cognition
  • Learning*
  • Sensation