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      The free-energy principle: a unified brain theory?

      Nature reviews. Neuroscience

      Psychological Theory, physiology, Perception, Nerve Net, Learning, Humans, Cognition, Brain, Animals

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          Abstract

          A free-energy principle has been proposed recently that accounts for action, perception and learning. This Review looks at some key brain theories in the biological (for example, neural Darwinism) and physical (for example, information theory and optimal control theory) sciences from the free-energy perspective. Crucially, one key theme runs through each of these theories - optimization. Furthermore, if we look closely at what is optimized, the same quantity keeps emerging, namely value (expected reward, expected utility) or its complement, surprise (prediction error, expected cost). This is the quantity that is optimized under the free-energy principle, which suggests that several global brain theories might be unified within a free-energy framework.

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          Most cited references 6

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          Synaptic depression and cortical gain control.

          Cortical neurons receive synaptic inputs from thousands of afferents that fire action potentials at rates ranging from less than 1 hertz to more than 200 hertz. Both the number of afferents and their large dynamic range can mask changes in the spatial and temporal pattern of synaptic activity, limiting the ability of a cortical neuron to respond to its inputs. Modeling work based on experimental measurements indicates that short-term depression of intracortical synapses provides a dynamic gain-control mechanism that allows equal percentage rate changes on rapidly and slowly firing afferents to produce equal postsynaptic responses. Unlike inhibitory and adaptive mechanisms that reduce responsiveness to all inputs, synaptic depression is input-specific, leading to a dramatic increase in the sensitivity of a neuron to subtle changes in the firing patterns of its afferents.
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            Principles of the self-organizing dynamic system.

             Damien Ashby (1947)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                10.1038/nrn2787
                20068583

                Chemistry

                Psychological Theory, physiology, Perception, Nerve Net, Learning, Humans, Cognition, Brain, Animals

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