Prediction, cognition and the brain

Front Hum Neurosci. 2010 Mar 22:4:25. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2010.00025. eCollection 2010.


The term "predictive brain" depicts one of the most relevant concepts in cognitive neuroscience which emphasizes the importance of "looking into the future", namely prediction, preparation, anticipation, prospection or expectations in various cognitive domains. Analogously, it has been suggested that predictive processing represents one of the fundamental principles of neural computations and that errors of prediction may be crucial for driving neural and cognitive processes as well as behavior. This review discusses research areas which have recognized the importance of prediction and introduces the relevant terminology and leading theories in the field in an attempt to abstract some generative mechanisms of predictive processing. Furthermore, we discuss the process of testing the validity of postulated expectations by matching these to the realized events and compare the subsequent processing of events which confirm to those which violate the initial predictions. We conclude by suggesting that, although a lot is known about this type of processing, there are still many open issues which need to be resolved before a unified theory of predictive processing can be postulated with regard to both cognitive and neural functioning.

Keywords: anticipation; expectation; internal models; novelty detection; prediction; prediction errors; prospection; simulation.