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TU Berlin

Inhalt des Dokuments

Neural Information Processing Group

We are concerned with the principles underlying information processing in biological systems. On the one hand we want to understand how the brain computes, on the other hand we want to utilize the strategies employed by biological systems for machine learning applications. Our research interests cover three thematic areas.

Models of Neuronal Systems:


In collaboration with neurobiologists and clinicians we study how the visual system processes visual information. Research topics include: cortical dynamics, the representation of visual information, adaptation and plasticity, and the role of feedback. More recently we became interested in how perception is linked to cognitive function, and we began to study computational models of decision making in uncertain environments, and how those processes interact with perception and memory.

Machine Learning and Neural Networks:


Here we investigate how machines can learn from examples in order to predict and (more recently) act. Research topics include the learning of proper representations, active and semisupervised learning schemes, and prototype-based methods. Motivated by the model-based analysis of decision making in humans we also became interested in reinforcement learning schemes and how these methods can be extended to cope with multi-objective cost functions. In collaboration with colleagues from the application domains, machine learning methods are applied to different problems ranging from computer vision, information retrieval, to chemoinformatics.

Analysis of Neural Data:


Here we are interested to apply machine learning and statistical methods to the analysis of multivariate biomedical data, in particular to data which form the basis of our computational studies of neural systems. Research topics vary and currently include spike-sorting and the analysis of multi-tetrode recordings, confocal microscopy and 3D-reconstruction techniques, and the analysis of imaging data. Recently we became interested in the analysis of multimodal data, for example, correlating anatomical, imaging, and genetic data.

Selected Publications

The Optimal Unbiased Extimator and its Relation to LSTD, TD and MC
Citation key Gruenwaelder2011
Author Grünwälder, S. and Obermayer, K.
Pages 289 – 330
Year 2011
DOI 10.1007/s10994-010-5220-9
Journal Machine Learning
Volume 83
Month September
Abstract Abstract In this analytical study we derive the optimal unbiased value estimator (MVU) and compare its statistical risk to three well known value estimators: Temporal Difference learning (TD),Monte Carlo estimation (MC) and Least-Squares Temporal Difference Learning (LSTD). We demonstrate that LSTD is equivalent to the MVU if the Markov Reward Process (MRP) is acyclic and show that both differ for most cyclic MRPs as LSTD is then typically biased. More generally, we show that estimators that fulfill the Bellman equation can only be unbiased for special cyclic MRPs. The reason for this is that at each state the bias is calculated with a different probability measure and due to the strong coupling by the Bellman equation it is typically not possible for a set of value estimators to be unbiased with respect to each of these measures. Furthermore, we derive relations of the MVU to MC and TD. The most important of these relations is the equivalence of MC to the MVU and to LSTD for undiscounted MRPs in which MC has the same amount of information. In the discounted case this equivalence does not hold anymore. For TD we show that it is essentially unbiased for acyclic MRPs and biased for cyclic MRPs. We also order estimators according to their risk and present counter-examples to show that no general ordering exists between the MVU and LSTD, between MC and LSTD and between TD and MC. Theoretical results are supported by examples and an empirical evaluation.
Bibtex Type of Publication Selected:main selected:reinforcement
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