Home / AI Glossary / Neural Networks

Neural Networks

Neural Networks (NN) are computational models inspired by the structure and function of the human brain, which consists of interconnected nodes called neurons that process and transmit information. Neural networks form the foundation of various machine learning techniques, particularly deep learning, and have been utilized across a wide range of applications in artificial intelligence (AI).

Structure of Neural Networks

A neural network is composed of layers of interconnected neurons or nodes, with each neuron receiving input from one or more neurons in the previous layer and sending output to one or more neurons in the subsequent layer. The layers in a neural network can be categorized as follows:

  • Input Layer: The first layer in a neural network that receives input data, such as images or text, and passes it on to the next layer.
  • Hidden Layers: Layers between the input and output layers that process and transform data, learning abstract features and representations. The number of hidden layers determines the depth of the network.
  • Output Layer: The final layer in a neural network that produces the model’s predictions or decisions, such as classifications or regression values.

Each connection between neurons has an associated weight, which represents the strength or importance of the connection. During the training process, these weights are adjusted to minimize the difference between the network’s predictions and the actual target outputs.

Activation Functions and Learning

Neurons in a neural network utilize activation functions to introduce non-linearity into the model, allowing it to learn complex patterns and relationships in data. Common activation functions include the sigmoid, hyperbolic tangent (tanh), and rectified linear unit (ReLU).

NNs are typically trained using a supervised learning approach, with the backpropagation algorithm being the most widely used method for updating the weights in the network. This algorithm calculates the gradient of the loss function concerning each weight by employing the chain rule, computing the gradient one layer at a time, iterating from the output layer to the input layer.

Types of Neural Networks

There are several types of neural networks, each designed to address specific tasks or challenges:

  • Feedforward Neural Networks (FNN): The simplest type of neural network, where information flows in one direction from the input layer to the output layer without looping back.
  • Recurrent Neural Networks (RNN): Networks that include connections between neurons in the same layer or from a later layer to an earlier layer, allowing the network to maintain a “memory” of previous inputs, which is useful for time series and sequential data.
  • Convolutional Neural Networks (CNN): Specialized neural networks designed to process grid-like data, such as images, using convolutional layers that can capture local patterns and spatial relationships.
  • Long Short-Term Memory (LSTM): A type of RNN specifically designed to address the vanishing gradient problem, enabling the learning of long-term dependencies in sequences.

Neural networks have been employed in a diverse range of AI applications, including computer vision, natural language processing, speech recognition, and reinforcement learning, demonstrating their versatility and adaptability.

AI Tools Explorer