Learning, Inference, and Prediction in the Brain


Chris Mathys

This course is an introduction to the brain as a predictive organ. The brain learns about its environment and infers the state of that environment in order to predict it, which will help ensure its own survival. We will cover the history of this concept starting with Helmholtz in the 1860s through to modern mathematical formulations due to Dayan, Hinton, Friston, and others. We will look at evidence regarding the neurobiological implementation of predictive coding and the underlying cortical microcircuits. We will review the various ways neurotransmitter and neuromodulator systems affect predictive processes and the pathology that can result from imbalances in these systems. Finally, we will look at mathematical models describing prediction updates in response to new sensory input in dynamic environments and how they relate to neuromodulator systems.