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Concept: Bayesian probability


Hierarchical generative models, such as Bayesian networks, and belief propagation have been shown to provide a theoretical framework that can account for perceptual processes, including feedforward recognition and feedback modulation. The framework explains both psychophysical and physiological experimental data and maps well onto the hierarchical distributed cortical anatomy. However, the complexity required to model cortical processes makes inference, even using approximate methods, very computationally expensive. Thus, existing object perception models based on this approach are typically limited to tree-structured networks with no loops, use small toy examples or fail to account for certain perceptual aspects such as invariance to transformations or feedback reconstruction. In this study we develop a Bayesian network with an architecture similar to that of HMAX, a biologically-inspired hierarchical model of object recognition, and use loopy belief propagation to approximate the model operations (selectivity and invariance). Crucially, the resulting Bayesian network extends the functionality of HMAX by including top-down recursive feedback. Thus, the proposed model not only achieves successful feedforward recognition invariant to noise, occlusions, and changes in position and size, but is also able to reproduce modulatory effects such as illusory contour completion and attention. Our novel and rigorous methodology covers key aspects such as learning using a layerwise greedy algorithm, combining feedback information from multiple parents and reducing the number of operations required. Overall, this work extends an established model of object recognition to include high-level feedback modulation, based on state-of-the-art probabilistic approaches. The methodology employed, consistent with evidence from the visual cortex, can be potentially generalized to build models of hierarchical perceptual organization that include top-down and bottom-up interactions, for example, in other sensory modalities.

Concepts: Perception, Bayesian network, Gene regulatory network, Bayesian probability, Graphical models, Belief propagation, Graphical model, Directed acyclic graph


In a number of applications there is a need to determine the most likely pedigree for a group of persons based on genetic markers. Adequate models are needed to reach this goal. The markers used to perform the statistical calculations can be linked and there may also be linkage disequilibrium (LD) in the population. The purpose of this paper is to present a graphical Bayesian Network framework to deal with such data. Potential LD is normally ignored and it is important to verify that the resulting calculations are not biased. Even if linkage does not influence results for regular paternity cases, it may have substantial impact on likelihood ratios involving other, more extended pedigrees. Models for LD influence likelihoods for all pedigrees to some degree and an initial estimate of the impact of ignoring LD and/or linkage is desirable, going beyond mere rules of thumb based on marker distance. Furthermore, we show how one can readily include a mutation model in the Bayesian Network; extending other programs or formulas to include such models may require considerable amounts of work and will in many case not be practical. As an example, we consider the two STR markers vWa and D12S391. We estimate probabilities for population haplotypes to account for LD using a method based on data from trios, while an estimate for the degree of linkage is taken from the literature. The results show that accounting for haplotype frequencies is unnecessary in most cases for this specific pair of markers. When doing calculations on regular paternity cases, the markers can be considered statistically independent. In more complex cases of disputed relatedness, for instance cases involving siblings or so-called deficient cases, or when small differences in the LR matter, independence should not be assumed. (The networks are freely available at

Concepts: Statistics, Object-oriented programming, Networks, Bayesian inference, Bayesian probability, Bayes' theorem, Linkage disequilibrium, Haplotype


Particle swarm optimization is a popular method for solving difficult optimization problems. There have been attempts to formulate the method in formal probabilistic or stochastic terms (e.g. bare bones particle swarm) with the aim to achieve more generality and explain the practical behavior of the method. Here we present a Bayesian interpretation of the particle swarm optimization. This interpretation provides a formal framework for incorporation of prior knowledge about the problem that is being solved. Furthermore, it also allows to extend the particle optimization method through the use of kernel functions that represent the intermediary transformation of the data into a different space where the optimization problem is expected to be easier to be resolved-such transformation can be seen as a form of prior knowledge about the nature of the optimization problem. We derive from the general Bayesian formulation the commonly used particle swarm methods as particular cases.

Concepts: Scientific method, Probability, Problem solving, Optimization, Bayesian probability, Particle swarm optimization, Optimization problem, Ant colony optimization


Previous studies indicated that the quality of tropical composts is poorer than that of composts produced in temperate regions. The aim of this study was to test the type of manure, the use of co-composting with green waste, and the stabilization method for their ability to improve compost quality in the tropics. We produced 68 composts and vermicomposts that were analysed for their C, lignin and NPK contents throughout the composting process. Bayesian networks were used to assess the mechanisms controlling compost quality. The concentration effect, for C and lignin, and the initial blend quality, for NPK content, were the main factors affecting compost quality. Cattle manure composts presented the highest C and lignin contents, and poultry litter composts exhibited the highest NPK content. Co-composting improved quality by enhancing the concentration effect, which reduced the impact of C and nutrient losses. Vermicomposting did not improve compost quality; co-composting without earthworms thus appears to be a suitable stabilization method under the conditions of this study because it produced high quality composts and is easier to implement.

Concepts: Tropics, Bayesian network, Networks, Bayesian probability, Humus, Compost, Composting, Vermicompost


Successful interaction with the environment requires flexible updating of our beliefs about the world. By estimating the likelihood of future events, it is possible to prepare appropriate actions in advance and execute fast, accurate motor responses. According to theoretical proposals, agents track the variability arising from changing environments by computing various forms of uncertainty. Several neuromodulators have been linked to uncertainty signalling, but comprehensive empirical characterisation of their relative contributions to perceptual belief updating, and to the selection of motor responses, is lacking. Here we assess the roles of noradrenaline, acetylcholine, and dopamine within a single, unified computational framework of uncertainty. Using pharmacological interventions in a sample of 128 healthy human volunteers and a hierarchical Bayesian learning model, we characterise the influences of noradrenergic, cholinergic, and dopaminergic receptor antagonism on individual computations of uncertainty during a probabilistic serial reaction time task. We propose that noradrenaline influences learning of uncertain events arising from unexpected changes in the environment. In contrast, acetylcholine balances attribution of uncertainty to chance fluctuations within an environmental context, defined by a stable set of probabilistic associations, or to gross environmental violations following a contextual switch. Dopamine supports the use of uncertainty representations to engender fast, adaptive responses.

Concepts: Scientific method, Environment, Natural environment, Neurotransmitter, Dopamine, Norepinephrine, Amphetamine, Bayesian probability


The effects of stress are frequently studied, yet its proximal causes remain unclear. Here we demonstrate that subjective estimates of uncertainty predict the dynamics of subjective and physiological stress responses. Subjects learned a probabilistic mapping between visual stimuli and electric shocks. Salivary cortisol confirmed that our stressor elicited changes in endocrine activity. Using a hierarchical Bayesian learning model, we quantified the relationship between the different forms of subjective task uncertainty and acute stress responses. Subjective stress, pupil diameter and skin conductance all tracked the evolution of irreducible uncertainty. We observed a coupling between emotional and somatic state, with subjective and physiological tuning to uncertainty tightly correlated. Furthermore, the uncertainty tuning of subjective and physiological stress predicted individual task performance, consistent with an adaptive role for stress in learning under uncertain threat. Our finding that stress responses are tuned to environmental uncertainty provides new insight into their generation and likely adaptive function.

Concepts: Scientific method, Risk, Decision theory, Metabolic syndrome, Stress, Endocrine system, Fight-or-flight response, Bayesian probability


Medically-induced coma is a drug-induced state of profound brain inactivation and unconsciousness used to treat refractory intracranial hypertension and to manage treatment-resistant epilepsy. The state of coma is achieved by continually monitoring the patient’s brain activity with an electroencephalogram (EEG) and manually titrating the anesthetic infusion rate to maintain a specified level of burst suppression, an EEG marker of profound brain inactivation in which bursts of electrical activity alternate with periods of quiescence or suppression. The medical coma is often required for several days. A more rational approach would be to implement a brain-machine interface (BMI) that monitors the EEG and adjusts the anesthetic infusion rate in real time to maintain the specified target level of burst suppression. We used a stochastic control framework to develop a BMI to control medically-induced coma in a rodent model. The BMI controlled an EEG-guided closed-loop infusion of the anesthetic propofol to maintain precisely specified dynamic target levels of burst suppression. We used as the control signal the burst suppression probability (BSP), the brain’s instantaneous probability of being in the suppressed state. We characterized the EEG response to propofol using a two-dimensional linear compartment model and estimated the model parameters specific to each animal prior to initiating control. We derived a recursive Bayesian binary filter algorithm to compute the BSP from the EEG and controllers using a linear-quadratic-regulator and a model-predictive control strategy. Both controllers used the estimated BSP as feedback. The BMI accurately controlled burst suppression in individual rodents across dynamic target trajectories, and enabled prompt transitions between target levels while avoiding both undershoot and overshoot. The median performance error for the BMI was 3.6%, the median bias was -1.4% and the overall posterior probability of reliable control was 1 (95% Bayesian credibility interval of [0.87, 1.0]). A BMI can maintain reliable and accurate real-time control of medically-induced coma in a rodent model suggesting this strategy could be applied in patient care.

Concepts: Brain, Patient, Traumatic brain injury, Neuroscience, Neurology, Electroencephalography, Control theory, Bayesian probability


Do people routinely pre-activate the meaning and even the phonological form of upcoming words? The most acclaimed evidence for phonological prediction comes from a 2005 Nature Neuroscience publication by DeLong, Urbach and Kutas, who observed a graded modulation of electrical brain potentials (N400) to nouns and preceding articles by the probability that people use a word to continue the sentence fragment (‘cloze’). In our direct replication study spanning 9 laboratories (N=334), pre-registered replication-analyses and exploratory Bayes factor analyses successfully replicated the noun-results but, crucially, not the article-results. Pre-registered single-trial analyses also yielded a statistically significant effect for the nouns but not the articles. Exploratory Bayesian single-trial analyses showed that the article-effect may be non-zero but is likely far smaller than originally reported and too small to observe without very large sample sizes. Our results do not support the view that readers routinely pre-activate the phonological form of predictable words.

Concepts: Scientific method, Statistics, Linguistics, Sentence, Word, Probability theory, Probability, Bayesian probability


This article explains the foundational concepts of Bayesian data analysis using virtually no mathematical notation. Bayesian ideas already match your intuitions from everyday reasoning and from traditional data analysis. Simple examples of Bayesian data analysis are presented that illustrate how the information delivered by a Bayesian analysis can be directly interpreted. Bayesian approaches to null-value assessment are discussed. The article clarifies misconceptions about Bayesian methods that newcomers might have acquired elsewhere. We discuss prior distributions and explain how they are not a liability but an important asset. We discuss the relation of Bayesian data analysis to Bayesian models of mind, and we briefly discuss what methodological problems Bayesian data analysis is not meant to solve. After you have read this article, you should have a clear sense of how Bayesian data analysis works and the sort of information it delivers, and why that information is so intuitive and useful for drawing conclusions from data.

Concepts: Scientific method, Statistical inference, Bayesian inference, Bayesian probability, Bayes' theorem, Bayesian statistics, Naive Bayes classifier, Influence diagram


Bayesian networks are probabilistic graphical models suitable for modeling several kinds of biological systems. In many cases, the structure of a Bayesian network represents causal molecular mechanisms or statistical associations of the underlying system. Bayesian networks have been applied, for example, for inferring the structure of many biological networks from experimental data. We present some recent progress in learning the structure of static and dynamic Bayesian networks from data.

Concepts: Statistics, Machine learning, Bayesian network, Networks, Bayesian probability, Belief propagation, Graphical model, Dynamic Bayesian network