Making and testing predictions


Dana site has a piece by Kayt Sukel, ‘Does the brain use the Scientific Method?’ (here) It reports on the work of A. Alink and group on predictive feedback in the brain.

The idea of a “little scientist” inside in our heads making and testing predictions is not a new one… How are human beings able to suss out the environment around them so quickly and efficiently? One idea is that our brains are forming predictions from the top down. That is, we use data from our past experiences to help cull all the extraneous sensory data that is flowing in from the environment. Neuroanatomy seems to support this idea… “We believe that the brain actually constantly has some kind of expectation about what will happen next,” says Alink. “Sensory input provides information about whether those predictions are correct.”… “Everywhere you look in the brain, almost every connection you see has one going in the other direction, too,” says Moshe Bar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. “The more we thought about this anatomical set-up, the more it seemed like there must be some kind of feedback happening.”… “As the stimulus becomes less predictable, we’d expect the signal in the brain to increase. And as it becomes more and more predictable, the activation should systematically reduce,” says Alink. “That’s what we found. With the least predictable stimuli, we saw the highest response in V1. In the most predictable, the lowest. And in between the two, an intermediate level of activation. It seems that our brain works hard to hypothesize and then test what’s going to happen next.”

This group is studying prediction with the hope of understanding depression. They theorize that faults in the prediction mechanism may be a cause of depression and more serious conditions.

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