Optimal Neural Codes for Control and Estimation

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 27 (NIPS 2014)

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Alex K. Susemihl, Ron Meir, Manfred Opper


Agents acting in the natural world aim at selecting appropriate actions based on noisy and partial sensory observations. Many behaviors leading to decision making and action selection in a closed loop setting are naturally phrased within a control theoretic framework. Within the framework of optimal Control Theory, one is usually given a cost function which is minimized by selecting a control law based on the observations. While in standard control settings the sensors are assumed fixed, biological systems often gain from the extra flexibility of optimizing the sensors themselves. However, this sensory adaptation is geared towards control rather than perception, as is often assumed. In this work we show that sensory adaptation for control differs from sensory adaptation for perception, even for simple control setups. This implies, consistently with recent experimental results, that when studying sensory adaptation, it is essential to account for the task being performed.