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Event Entry

What and Who

Why do large language models align with human brains: insights, opportunities, and challenges

Mariya Toneva
Max Planck Institute for Software Systems
Joint Lecture Series
AG 1, AG 2, AG 3, INET, AG 4, AG 5, D6, SWS, RG1, MMCI  
Public Audience

Date, Time and Location

Wednesday, 7 June 2023
60 Minutes
E1 5


Language models that have been trained to predict the next word over billions of text documents have been shown to also significantly predict brain recordings of people comprehending language. Understanding the reasons behind the observed similarities between language in machines and language in the brain can lead to more insight into both systems. In this talk, we will discuss a series of recent works that make progress towards this question along different dimensions. The unifying principle among these works that allows us to make scientific claims about why one black box (language model) aligns with another black box (the human brain) is our ability to make specific perturbations in the language model and observe their effect on the alignment with the brain. Building on this approach, these works reveal that the observed alignment is due to more than next-word prediction and word-level semantics and is partially related to joint processing of select linguistic information in both systems. Furthermore, we find that the brain alignment can be improved by training a language model to summarize narratives. Taken together, these works make progress towards determining the sufficient and necessary conditions under which language in machines aligns with language in the brain.


Jennifer Müller
+49 681 9325 2900
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Virtual Meeting Details

997 1565 5535
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Jennifer Müller, 04/11/2023 11:42 -- Created document.