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What is an artificial neural network?


An artificial neural network is a system based on the operation of biological neural networks, in other words, is an emulation of biological neural system. Why would be necessary the implementation of artificial neural networks? Although computing these days is truly advanced, there are certain tasks that a program made for a common microprocessor is unable to perform; even so a software implementation of a neural network can be made with their advantages and disadvantages.


  • A neural network can perform tasks that a linear program can not.
  • When an element of the neural network fails, it can continue without any problem by their parallel nature.
  • A neural network learns and does not need to be reprogrammed.
  • It can be implemented in any application.
  • It can be implemented without any problem.


  • The neural network needs training to operate.
  • The architecture of a neural network is different from the architecture of microprocessors therefore needs to be emulated.
  • Requires high processing time for large neural networks.

Another aspect of the artificial neural networks is that there are different architectures, which consequently requires different types of algorithms, but despite to be an apparently complex system, a neural network is relatively simple.

Artificial neural networks are among the newest signal processing technologies nowadays. The field of work is very interdisciplinary, but the explanation I will give you here will be restricted to an engineering perspective.

In the world of engineering, neural networks have two main functions: Pattern classifiers and as non linear adaptive filters. As its biological predecessor, an artificial neural network is an adaptive system. By adaptive, it means that each parameter is changed during its operation and it is deployed for solving the problem in matter. This is called the training phase.

A artificial neural network is developed with a systematic step-by-step procedure which optimizes a criterion commonly known as the learning rule. The input/output training data is fundamental for these networks as it conveys the information which is necessary to discover the optimal operating point. In addition, a non linear nature make neural network processing elements a very flexible system.

Basically, an artificial neural network is a system. A system is a structure that receives an input, process the data, and provides an output. Commonly, the input consists in a data array which can be anything such as data from an image file, a WAVE sound or any kind of data that can be represented in an array. Once an input is presented to the neural network, and a corresponding desired or target response is set at the output, an error is composed from the difference of the desired response and the real system output.

The error information is fed back to the system which makes all adjustments to their parameters in a systematic fashion (commonly known as the learning rule). This process is repeated until the desired output is acceptable. It is important to notice that the performance hinges heavily on the data. Hence, this is why this data should pre-process with third party algorithms such as DSP algorithms.

In neural network design, the engineer or designer chooses the network topology, the trigger function or performance function, learning rule and the criteria for stopping the training phase. So, it is pretty difficult determining the size and parameters of the network as there is no rule or formula to do it. The best we can do for having success with our design is playing with it. The problem with this method is when the system does not work properly it is hard to refine the solution. Despite this issue, neural networks based solution is very efficient in terms of development, time and resources. By experience, I can tell that artificial neural networks provide real solutions that are difficult to match with other technologies.

Fifteen years ago, Denker said: “artificial neural networks are the second best way to implement a solution” this motivated by their simplicity, design and universality. Nowadays, neural network technologies are emerging as the technology choice for many applications, such as patter recognition, prediction, system identification and control.


Date: 2016-01-14; view: 1910

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