Biological Learning and Control:

How the brain builds representations, predicts events, and makes decisions


Reza Shadmehr and Sandro Mussa-Ivaldi

MIT Press (2012)


In this book we present a theoretical framework for understanding the regularity of the brainís perceptions, its ability to learn, and its control of movements. We offer an account of perception as the combination of prediction and observation: the brain builds internal models that describe what should happen, and then combines this prediction with reports from the sensory system to form a belief.


Considering the brainís control of movements, and variations despite biomechanical similarities among old and young, healthy and unhealthy, and humans and other animals, we review evidence suggesting that motor commands reflect an economic decision made by our brain weighing reward and effort. This evidence suggests that the brain prefers to receive a reward sooner than later, devaluing or discounting reward with the passage of time; then as the temporal discounting of reward changes in the brain because of development, disease, or evolution, the shape of our movements will also change.


The internal models provide the brain with an essential survival skill: the ability to predict based on past observations. The formal concepts presented here offer a way to describe how representations are formed, what structure they have, and how the theoretical concepts can be tested.