Skip navigation

Rajesh P.N. Rao

Titles by This Editor

Probabilistic Approaches to Neural Coding

A Bayesian approach can contribute to an understanding of the brain on multiple levels, by giving normative predictions about how an ideal sensory system should combine prior knowledge and observation, by providing mechanistic interpretation of the dynamic functioning of the brain circuit, and by suggesting optimal ways of deciphering experimental data. Bayesian Brain brings together contributions from both experimental and theoretical neuroscientists that examine the brain mechanisms of perception, decision making, and motor control according to the concepts of Bayesian estimation.

After an overview of the mathematical concepts, including Bayes' theorem, that are basic to understanding the approaches discussed, contributors discuss how Bayesian concepts can be used for interpretation of such neurobiological data as neural spikes and functional brain imaging. Next, contributors examine the modeling of sensory processing, including the neural coding of information about the outside world. Finally, contributors explore dynamic processes for proper behaviors, including the mathematics of the speed and accuracy of perceptual decisions and neural models of belief propagation.

Perception and Neural Function

Neurophysiological, neuroanatomical, and brain imaging studies have helped to shed light on how the brain transforms raw sensory information into a form that is useful for goal-directed behavior. A fundamental question that is seldom addressed by these studies, however, is why the brain uses the types of representations it does and what evolutionary advantage, if any, these representations confer. It is difficult to address such questions directly via animal experiments. A promising alternative is to use probabilistic principles such as maximum likelihood and Bayesian inference to derive models of brain function.

This book surveys some of the current probabilistic approaches to modeling and understanding brain function. Although most of the examples focus on vision, many of the models and techniques are applicable to other modalities as well. The book presents top-down computational models as well as bottom-up neurally motivated models of brain function. The topics covered include Bayesian and information-theoretic models of perception, probabilistic theories of neural coding and spike timing, computational models of lateral and cortico-cortical feedback connections, and the development of receptive field properties from natural signals.