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Abstract:To generate actions in the face of physiological delays, the brain must predict the future. Here we explore how prediction may lie at the core of brain function by considering a neuron predicting the future of a scalar time series input. Assuming that the dynamics of the lag vector (a vector composed of several consecutive elements of the time series) are locally linear, Normal Mode Decomposition decomposes the dynamics into independently evolving (eigen-)modes allowing for straightforward prediction. We propose that a neuron learns the top mode and projects its input onto the associated subspace. Under this interpretation, the temporal filter of a neuron corresponds to the left eigenvector of a generalized eigenvalue problem. We mathematically analyze the operation of such an algorithm on noisy observations of synthetic data generated by a linear system. Interestingly, the shape of the temporal filter varies with the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR): a noisy input yields a monophasic filter and a growing SNR leads to multiphasic filters with progressively greater number of phases. Such variation in the temporal filter with input SNR resembles that observed experimentally in biological neurons.