An artificial neural network (ANN), usually called “neural network” (NN), is a mathematical model or computational model that tries to simulate the structure and/or functional aspects of biological neural networks. It consists of an interconnected group of artificial neurons and processes information using a connectionist approach to computation. In most cases an ANN is an adaptive system that changes its structure based on external or internal information that flows through the network during the learning phase. Neural networks are non-linear statistical data modeling tools. They can be used to model complex relationships between inputs and outputs or to find patterns in data.
There is no precise agreed-upon definition among researchers as to what a neural network is, but most would agree that it involves a network of simple processing elements (neurons), which can exhibit complex global behavior, determined by the connections between the processing elements and element parameters. The original inspiration for the technique came from examination of the central nervous system and the neurons (and their axons, dendrites and synapses) which constitute one of its most significant information processing elements (see Neuroscience). In a neural network model, simple nodes (called variously “neurons”, “neurodes”, “PEs” (“processing elements”) or “units”) are connected together to form a network of nodes — hence the term “neural network.” While a neural network does not have to be adaptive per se, its practical use comes with algorithms designed to alter the strength (weights) of the connections in the network to produce a desired signal flow.
These networks are also similar to the biological neural networks in the sense that functions are performed collectively and in parallel by the units, rather than there being a clear delineation of subtasks to which various units are assigned (see also connectionism). Currently, the term Artificial Neural Network (ANN) tends to refer mostly to neural network models employed in statistics, cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence. Neural network models designed with emulation of the central nervous system (CNS) in mind are a subject of theoretical neuroscience (computational neuroscience).
In modern software implementations of artificial neural networks the approach inspired by biology has for the most part been abandoned for a more practical approach based on statistics and signal processing. In some of these systems, neural networks or parts of neural networks (such as artificial neurons) are used as components in larger systems that combine both adaptive and non-adaptive elements. While the more general approach of such adaptive systems is more suitable for real-world problem solving, it has far less to do with the traditional artificial intelligence connectionist models. What they do have in common, however, is the principle of non-linear, distributed, parallel and local processing and adaptation.
Neural network models in artificial intelligence are usually referred to as artificial neural networks (ANNs); these are essentially simple mathematical models defining a function . Each type of ANN model corresponds to a class of such functions.
Employing artificial neural networks
Perhaps the greatest advantage of ANNs is their ability to be used as an arbitrary function approximation mechanism wh