3 August 2008

Minimizing free energy

Filed under: Commentary — András Salamon @ 13:22

This is third-hand and several months old, but quite fascinating.  Stanislas Dehane wrote for this year’s Edge question about capturing the overall behaviour of the brain with a compact model.  The gist of his contribution (edited for brevity):

The brain is the outcome of five hundred million years of tinkering.  How could such a jumble be captured by a single mathematical law?

Karl Friston, from UCL in London, has presented “a theory of cortical responses”.  Friston’s theory rests on a single premise: the brain optimizes a free energy function.  This function measures how closely the brain’s internal representation of the world approximates the true state of the real world. From this simple postulate, Friston spins off an enormous variety of predictions.

Neuroscience now has a wealth of beautiful theories that should attract the attention of top-notch mathematicians — we will need them!

Three relevant papers, from Friston’s site:

Free energy and the brain (with KE Stephan, 2007)

A free energy principle for the brain (with J Kilner and L Harrison, 2006)

A theory of cortical responses (2005)


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