Bayes in the Brain--On Bayesian Modelling in Neuroscience


Authors
Matteo Colombo
Tilburg University
Abstract
According to a growing trend in theoretical neuroscience, the human perceptual system is akin to a Bayesian machine. The aim of this article is to clearly articulate the claims that perception can be considered Bayesian inference and that the brain can be considered a Bayesian machine, some of the epistemological challenges to these claims; and some of the implications of these claims. We address two questions: (i) How are Bayesian models used in theoretical neuroscience? (ii) From the use of Bayesian models in theoretical neuroscience, have we learned or can we hope to learn that perception is Bayesian inference or that the brain is a Bayesian machine? From actual practice in theoretical neuroscience, we argue for three claims. First, currently Bayesian models do not provide mechanistic explanations; instead they are useful devices for predicting and systematizing observational statements about people's performances in a variety of perceptual tasks. That is, currently we should have an instrumentalist attitude towards Bayesian models in neuroscience. Second, the inference typically drawn from Bayesian behavioural performance in a variety of perceptual tasks to underlying Bayesian mechanisms should be understood within the three-level framework laid out by David Marr ( [1982] ). Third, we can hope to learn that perception is Bayesian inference or that the brain is a Bayesian machine to the extent that Bayesian models will prove successful in yielding secure and informative predictions of both subjects' perceptual performance and features of the underlying neural mechanisms
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DOI 10.1093/bjps/axr043
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References found in this work BETA

Free-Energy and the Brain.Karl J. Friston & Klaas E. Stephan - 2007 - Synthese 159 (3):417 - 458.
Prediction Versus Accommodation and the Risk of Overfitting.Christopher Hitchcock & Elliott Sober - 2004 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55 (1):1-34.
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Regularities and Causality; Generalizations and Causal Explanations.Jim Bogen - 2005 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 36 (2):397-420.

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Citations of this work BETA

Predictive Processing and the Representation Wars.Daniel Williams - 2018 - Minds and Machines 28 (1):141-172.
Bayesian Sensorimotor Psychology.Michael Rescorla - 2016 - Mind and Language 31 (1):3-36.
Bayesian Cognitive Science, Unification, and Explanation.Stephan Hartmann & Matteo Colombo - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2).
Direct Perception and the Predictive Mind.Zoe Drayson - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (12):3145-3164.
Husserl's Hyletic Data and Phenomenal Consciousness.Kenneth Williford - 2013 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 12 (3):501-519.

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