Neural optimization: Understanding trade-offs with pareto theory

Fabian Pallasdies, Philipp Norton, Jan-Hendrik Schleimer, Susanne Schreiber

Nervous systems, like any organismal structure, have been shaped by evolutionary processes to increase fitness. The resulting neural ‘bauplan’ has to account for multiple objectives simultaneously, including computational function as well as additional factors like robustness to environmental changes and energetic limitations. Oftentimes these objectives compete and a quantification of the relative impact of individual optimization targets is non-trivial. Pareto optimality offers a theoretical framework to decipher objectives and trade-offs between them. We, therefore, highlight Pareto theory as a useful tool for the analysis of neurobiological systems, from biophysically-detailed cells to large-scale network structures and behavior. The Pareto approach can help to assess optimality, identify relevant objectives and their respective impact, and formulate testable hypotheses.

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 71:84-91 (2021)


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