Neural network(s) may refer to:
- Neural network (NN), The cognitive processes of Neurons (biological nodes) or Neurodes (artificial nodes) — These form the structure and architecture of brains, in animals and human beings, and artificially created entities such as super computers
- Artificial neural network (ANN), Neural network models and devices employed in statistics, Cognitive_psychology and Artificial intelligence such as the Half a Mouse Brain experiment
- Biological neural network (BNN), Collections of physically interconnected neurons whose inputs define a recognizable circuit such as the brain and the eyes through the visual cortex
- Half a Mouse Brain, An Artificial neural network attempt to simulate half a mouse brain on Blue Gene — A supercomputer from IBM and the LLNL
- Neural Networks (journal), a journal
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Neural network software
Main article: Neural network software
There are three major learning paradigms, each corresponding to a particular abstract learning task. These are supervised learning, unsupervised learning and reinforcement learning. Usually any given type of network architecture can be employed in any of those tasks.
- Supervised learning
In supervised learning, we are given a set of example pairs and the aim is to find a function in the allowed class of functions that matches the examples. In other words, we wish to infer how the mapping implied by the data and the cost function is related to the mismatch between our mapping and the data.
- Unsupervised learning
In unsupervised learning we are given some data , and a cost function which is to be minimized which can be any function of and the network's output, . The cost function is determined by the task formulation. Most applications fall within the domain of estimation problems such as statistical modeling, compression, filtering, blind source separation and clustering.
- Reinforcement learning
In reinforcement learning, data is usually not given, but generated by an agent's interactions with the environment. At each point in time , the agent performs an action and the environment generates an observation and an instantaneous cost , according to some (usually unknown) dynamics. The aim is to discover a policy for selecting actions that minimizes some measure of a long-term cost, i.e. the expected cumulative cost. The environment's dynamics and the long-term cost for each policy are usually unknown, but can be estimated. ANNs are frequently used in reinforcement learning as part of the overall algorithm. Tasks that fall within the paradigm of reinforcement learning are control problems, games and other sequential decision making tasks.
There are many algorithms for training neural networks; most of them can be viewed as a straightforward application of optimization theory and statistical estimation. They include: Back propagation by gradient descent, Rprop, BFGS, CG etc.
Evolutionary computation methods, simulated annealing, expectation maximization and non-parametric methods are among other commonly used methods for training neural networks. See also machine learning.
Neural networks and neuroscience
Theoretical and computational neuroscience is the field concerned with the theoretical analysis and computational modeling of biological neural systems. Since neural systems are intimately related to cognitive processes and behaviour, the field is closely related to cognitive and behavioural modeling.
The aim of the field is to create models of biological neural systems in order to understand how biological systems work. To gain this understanding, neuroscientists strive to make a link between observed biological processes (data), biologically plausible mechanisms for neural processing and learning (biological neural network models) and theory (statistical learning theory and information theory).
Types of models
Many models are used in the field, each defined at a different level of abstraction and trying to model different aspects of neural systems. They range from models of the short-term behaviour of individual neurons, through models of how the dynamics of neural circuitry arise from interactions between individual neurons, to models of how behaviour can arise from abstract neural modules that represent complete subsystems. These include models of the long-term and short-term plasticity of neural systems and its relation to learning and memory, from the individual neuron to the system level.
While initially research had been concerned mostly with the electrical characteristics of neurons, a particularly important part of the investigation in recent years has been the exploration of the role of neuromodulators such as dopamine, acetylcholine, and serotonin on behaviour and learning.
Biophysical models, such as BCM theory, have been important in understanding mechanisms for synaptic plasticity, and have had applications in both computer science and neuroscience. Research is ongoing in understanding the computational algorithms used in the brain, with some recent biological evidence for radial basis networks and neural backpropagation as mechanisms for processing data.
Computational devices have been created in CMOS for both biophysical simulation and neuromorphic computing. More recent efforts show promise for creating nanodevices for very large scale principal components analyses and convolution. If successful, these effort could usher in a new era of neural computing that is a step beyond digital computing, because it depends on learning rather than programming and because it is fundamentally analog rather than digital even though the first instantiations may in fact be with CMOS digital devices.
A common criticism of neural networks, particularly in robotics, is that they require a large diversity of training for real-world operation. Dean Pomerleau, in his research presented in the paper "Knowledge-based Training of Artificial Neural Networks for Autonomous Robot Driving," uses a neural network to train a robotic vehicle to drive on multiple types of roads (single lane, multi-lane, dirt, etc.). A large amount of his research is devoted to (1) extrapolating multiple training scenarios from a single training experience, and (2) preserving past training diversity so that the system does not become overtrained (if, for example, it is presented with a series of right turns – it should not learn to always turn right). These issues are common in neural networks that must decide from amongst a wide variety of responses.
A. K. Dewdney, a former Scientific American columnist, wrote in 1997, "Although neural nets do solve a few toy problems, their powers of computation are so limited that I am surprised anyone takes them seriously as a general problem-solving tool." (Dewdney, p. 82)
Arguments for Dewdney's position are that to implement large and effective software neural networks, much processing and storage resources need to be committed. While the brain has hardware tailored to the task of processing signals through a graph of neurons, simulating even a most simplified form on Von Neumann technology may compel a NN designer to fill many millions of database rows for its connections - which can lead to abusive RAM and HD necessities. Furthermore, the designer of NN systems will often need to simulate the transmission of signals through many of these connections and their associated neurons - which must often be matched with incredible amounts of CPU processing power and time. While neural networks often yield effective programs, they too often do so at the cost of time and money efficiency.
Arguments against Dewdney's position are that neural nets have been successfully used to solve many complex and diverse tasks, ranging from autonomously flying aircraft  to detecting credit card fraud .
Technology writer Roger Bridgman commented on Dewdney's statements about neural nets:
Neural networks, for instance, are in the dock not only because they have been hyped to high heaven, (what hasn't?) but also because you could create a successful net without understanding how it worked: the bunch of numbers that captures its behaviour would in all probability be "an opaque, unreadable table...valueless as a scientific resource".
In spite of his emphatic declaration that science is not technology, Dewdney seems here to pillory neural nets as bad science when most of those devising them are just trying to be good engineers. An unreadable table that a useful machine could read would still be well worth having.
Some other criticisms came from believers of hybrid models (combining neural networks and symbolic approaches). They advocate the intermix of these two approaches and believe that hybrid models can better capture the mechanisms of the human mind (Sun and Bookman 1994).