Cortical Function, Normative Models of
Normative models of cortical function are a class of models that are related to or derived from a well-defined mathematical objective function. They allow to understand the brain’s solution to a certain computational problem in relation to an optimal solution that maximizes the chosen objective function, if such a solution can be found.
Normative models of cortical function are much like other computational models of the cortex. They try to describe and explain experimental data and make predictions that can be used to falsify them (Dayan and Abbott 2001). But rather than directly asking how the brain solves a particular computational problem, one first asks what the optimal solutionto this problem is. Then the actual solution embodied in the brain may be understood as a specific implementation of this optimal solution or a reasonable approximation to it. Thus, by using normative models, one approaches the question of how the brain works by first...