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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:

Lupe

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:

Lupe

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:

Lupe

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

Risk-sensitive Reinforcement Learning
Citation key Shen2014b
Author Shen, Y. and Tobia, M. J. and Sommer, T. and Obermayer, K.
Pages 1298-1328
Year 2014
DOI 10.1162/NECO_a_00600
Journal Neural Computation
Volume 26
Number 7
Abstract We derive a family of risk-sensitive reinforcement learning methods for agents, who face sequential decision-making tasks in uncertain environments. By applying a utility function to the temporal difference (TD) error, nonlinear transformations are effectively applied not only to the received rewards but also to the true transition probabilities of the underlying Markov decision process. When appropriate utility functions are chosen, the agents' behaviors express key features of human behavior as predicted by prospect theory (Kahneman and Tversky, 1979), for example different risk-preferences for gains and losses as well as the shape of subjective probability curves. We derive a risk-sensitive Q-learning algorithm, which is necessary for modeling human behavior when transition probabilities are unknown, and prove its convergence. As a proof of principle for the applicability of the new framework we apply it to quantify human behavior in a sequential investment task. We find, that the risk-sensitive variant provides a significantly better fit to the behavioral data and that it leads to an interpretation of the subject's responses which is indeed consistent with prospect theory. The analysis of simultaneously measured fMRI signals show a significant correlation of the risk-sensitive TD error with BOLD signal change in the ventral striatum. In addition we find a significant correlation of the risk-sensitive Q-values with neural activity in the striatum, cingulate cortex and insula, which is not present if standard Q-values are used.
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