Self-organization of connection patterns within brain areas of animals begins prenatally, and has been shown to depend on internally generated patterns of neural activity. The neural structures continue to develop postnatally through externally driven patterns, when the sensory systems are exposed to stimuli from the environment. The internally generated patterns have been proposed to give the neural system an appropriate bias so that it can learn reliably from complex environmental stimuli. This project evaluates the hypothesis that complex artificial learning systems can benefit from a similar approach, consisting of initial training with patterns from an evolved pattern generator, followed by training with the actual training set. Preliminary experiments to test this hypothesis involved training competitive learning networks for recognizing handwritten digits. The results
how the approach can improve learning performance by discovering the appropriate initial weight biases, thereby compensating for weaknesses of the learning algorithm.