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Neural Networks: A Complete Overview and Its Usefulness

by | Mar 15, 2023 | Technology

Computers are powerful tools and always stand out at the task they have been assigned to. They even surpass humans at the job they have been programmed for. However, they are only good at the jobs they have been programmed for compared to humans who can do several things that the same time.

This is because machine intelligence and human intelligence are two different forms of cognitive processes. Machine intelligence is based on algorithms that can process large amounts of inputs quickly and accurately. It takes data, process or stores it, and provide the desired output.

This enables machines to make data-driven decisions faster than humans can. Human intelligence on the other hand is the ability of humans to use their brains to think, reason, understand, learn, and remember information.

Human relies on experience and intuition to make decisions. Machines provide us with efficient solutions while humans provide us with creative insights that are extremely hard be replicated through algorithms.

We also have the advantage of being able to draw upon a lifetime of experiences when making decisions while machines lack this capability. Hence, in a world where everyday human tasks are enhanced by technology, it is essential that machine has the same capabilities.

Humans start learning at a very young age while interacting with the physical world. Once an idea has been learned, our brain continues to process the information and create connections between similar ideas or interactions. This process helps us understand more complex information and ideas.

The more time we spend practicing any skill or skillset, the faster our neural networks become ingrained and we find ourselves naturally thinking about different things more often without having to consciously think about them as much anymore.

Every time we practice something, this help strengthens our neural pathways and makes our skillset stronger than before. Neurons that fire together wire together. This is the fundamental principle of neuroplasticity, and it’s also a broad principle of how learning occurs in the brain.

Learning new information requires repeated exposure and repetition so that our brains can memorize it. The human perception process things like sounds and images and turn them into concepts in the mind. This is essential for our brains, and it can be very useful in computers.

This is why there are a lot of talks about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Neural Networks nowadays. Hence what are neural networks in machine intelligence and how does it work?

What are neural networks?

A neural network is a subcategory of artificial intelligence that uses mathematical calculations to process data in a way that resembles the human brain. It uses a set of interconnected processing units or nodes to process data much like neurons in the human brain do.


Neurons in the human brain are cells in the nervous system responsible for receiving sensory inputs. They are the primary cells responsible for transmitting signals between different areas of the brain and between the brain to other parts of the body.

Neurons are cells that communicate with other cells and are responsible for the transmission of electrical signals. It uses electrical and chemical signals to transmit information throughout the body. Neural networks form a complex, highly interconnected network of neurons that help humans process information and send electrical signals to different parts of the body.

In information technology, neural networks also called Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) or Simulated Neural Networks (SNNs), are a type of machine learning (ML) algorithm that is inspired by the structure and function of biological neural networks.

Artificial neural network

It is described as an artificial neural network to distinguish it from the biological neural network that is operating in our heads. ANNs simulate how neurons in the brain work. These networks are very useful for analyzing large amounts of data to make predictions and understand relationships within them.

ANNs consist of interconnected nodes or “neurons” that can learn from data and make predictions. They give machines the human thought process capabilities to solve problems that traditional computers find extremely difficult or impossible to solve. Hence here’s how it works.

How neural network works?

Artificial neurons are becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to process large amounts of data quickly and accurately. It is a powerful tool for artificial intelligence applications and is being used to solve complex problems in various fields.

ANN is based on the concept of neurons, which are interconnected layers of computing units that can process information and adapt to new data and learn, remember, and recognize patterns. The basic neural network architecture has interconnected artificial neurons in three node layers.

The three main layers in a neural network are the input layer, hidden layer, and output layer. Each of these node layers has its own purpose and plays an important role in the overall functioning of the network. Here’s how it works:

Input layer

The input layer is the first layer that receives data. It is responsible for taking information from the environment/outside world. The layer takes in a lot of data at once. It processes, analyzes, and sorts the information, and then sends it to the next layer.

Hidden layer

The hidden layer is where the actual learning takes place. It takes the data from the input layer and any other hidden layers. This layer is responsible for calculating the appropriate response to a given input.

The hidden layer consists of several neurons and other layers that work together to identify patterns in the data and generate predictions. The ANN can have several tiers of hidden layers and each analyzes the output of the previous layer to process it further and then pass it to the next layer.

Output layer

The output layer is responsible for the final output of the network. This layer takes the processed information and produces a set of corresponding output values. The output value is the final result of all the data processing.

In short, a neural network system consists of multiple processors operating in tiers performing parallel processing. Each node in the first tier receives raw input data and passes it to the next tier, which passes its output on to the next, and so on.

Each processing node among all tiers has its own small sphere of knowledge that it applies to the input information. And each tier keeps receiving the preceding output until the final tier generates an answer or output that can be interpreted by humans.

The different node layers or tiers reflect the behavior of the human brain, allowing computer programs to process data, recognize patterns and solve common problems in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning applications

Example of how neural network works

By understanding how the layers interact with each other, we can better understand how neural networks work and use them to create more powerful AI systems. For example, let’s say you are looking at a picture of a house on your screen.

You can say with confidence that this is the picture of a house, no matter its shape or how it is designed. However, when a computer sees an image it sees a collection of pixels. Each pixel stored a numerical value representing the color intensity.

So instead of seeing an image of a house, the computer sees a very long array of numbers. And now even if you take another image of the same house, you will most likely get a brand new array of numerical values.

Even if the original image’s brightness is slightly adjusted or 5 pixels are cropped from the width or is rotated 5 degrees clockwise, you will get a brand new array of numerical values different from the original one.

Now, we as humans recognize it’s the image of a house because our neurons have been exposed to an enormous amount of houses both on screen and in the physical world. The more interaction we have with houses, the better our neural network gets at recognizing the subject.

Hence, here’s how artificial neural networks recognize things. Let’s say the image of the house is composed of 28 by 28 pixels which makes up 784 pixels. Each pixel is fed as input to each neuron of the first layer, which is connected to neurons in the next layer through channels.

Each channel has a numerical value known as weight assigned to it. The weight determines how much impact that particular channel has on the neurons in that layer. The inputs are multiplied to their corresponding weights and added together, then sent as input to the neurons in the hidden layer.

Each neuron has a numerical value known as the bias value. The bias is used to determine how much impact this neuron will have on others. This value is added to the sum of all previous inputs, then passed through a threshold function called an activation function.

The result of this function determines if this particular neuron will get activated or not. If it does get activated, then it transmits data over its associated channel(s) as forward propagation.

It continues through the network until an output neuron fires (has enough input to overcome its own bias value). In the output layer, the neuron with the highest value fires and determines the output.

How neural network is trained?

Neural networks rely on training data to learn and improve their accuracy over time. Typically, it is fed with large amounts of information or big data on the topic it will be used for. The model leverages supervised learning on labeled datasets to train the algorithm.

The algorithm is trained by processing examples. Each example has a known input and a known output, which are used to form probability weighted between the two. The comparisons are stored within the network itself. Rules are also put in place to help the network learn faster.

Training a neural network from a given example is usually done by determining the difference between its processed output and a targeted output. This difference is called an error. In short, the correct output is fed to compare against the actual predicted output to spot errors in the prediction.

The output is then transferred backward through the network in a process known as backward propagation. Based on the information the weights are adjusted. The network adjusts its weight according to the learning rule and uses the error value.

The propagation cycle is iteratively performed with multiple inputs. Successive adjustments will cause it to produce output that is increasingly similar to the target output. This process continues until the weights are assigned and the network can predict the correct output.

For example, here’s how a facial recognition system may be taught to recognize a mustache on a face. During training, the network will be fed with pictures of people with and without mustaches. It is also instructed which image does have a mustache.

It might also be instructed mustaches are below the nose and above the mouth. Rules like this make the training faster and the model more powerful. As the model is trained, its accuracy is evaluated using something called a cost function.

Ultimately, the goal is to minimize the cost function to ensure the correctness of any given observation. And the model adjusts its weights and biases to fit the training dataset, through what is known as the gradient descent, allowing the model to determine the direction to take to reduce errors, or more specifically, minimize the cost function. 

Types of neural networks

Artificial neurons are based on the idea of neurons in the human brain and use mathematical models to simulate how neurons interact with each other. there are different types of neural networks such as:

Feed-forward neural network

Feed-forward is a type of artificial neural network where the connection does not form a cycle. Information goes only in one direction which is forward. The information goes from the input layer through the hidden layer and then to the output layer.

Feed-forward neural networks can be easily trained using a linear regression algorithm. It is especially well-suited for tasks that involve sequential or pattern-based processing. This makes them a particularly appealing tool for machine learning.

Recurrent neural network

Recurrent Neural Networks (RNNs) are a type of artificial neural network that is used to process sequential data. Here the connection between the node can create a cycle allowing some nodes to affect the subsequent input to the same node.

This allows RNNS to exhibit temporal dynamic behavior. Meaning they are capable of learning the context of the input data and can use this information to make predictions or decisions based on past experiences.

RNNs can remember what has been seen before and use this information to make better decisions in the future. They are especially useful for tasks such as language processing, natural language generation, image recognition, and time-series prediction.

Convolutional neural network

Convolutional Neural Networks (CNNs or ConvNets) are a type of ANN that is used for image recognition, as well as other forms of computer vision. It is composed of layers of neurons, which take in input data and produce an output.

The neurons in the network are arranged in a grid-like pattern, with each layer connected to its neighbors. This unique architecture allows the network to learn patterns from the data it receives, enabling it to accurately classify images or recognize objects in photos.

CNNs are especially powerful for object recognition because they can learn to extract features from images that are not directly visible to the human eye. It can also be used for natural languages processing tasks such as text classification and sentiment analysis.

Modular neural network

Another type of neural network is modular. This system is composed of more than one neural network model that is connected via an intermediary. It allows for more complex management and handling of artificial processing networks.

Each model acts as a module where each solves a portion of the problem. These modules can independently learn and make decisions. Modular neurons are trained to recognize patterns in data, allowing them to make decisions and solve problems.

This makes MNNs more flexible and adaptive than other ANNs. Unlike traditional neural network systems which rely on a single layer of neurons, modular neural networks can process complex datasets and make more accurate predictions.

Deep neural network

A deep neural network is another type of ANN that mimics the way humans learn. It is a model that has additional depth in it, meaning there are more hidden layers between the input and the output.

By processing large amounts of data, deep neural networks can identify complex patterns and relationships between different variables through their multiple layers which would not be possible using traditional methods.

Why neural networks are important?

Artificial neural networks are powerful tools for solving complex problems that require the processing of large amounts of data. They are designed to mimic the way neurons in the human brain work and to create systems that can learn from their environment.

The uses of machine learning are becoming increasingly important as the amount of data available continues to grow exponentially. We are living in the age of big data. Today every digital interaction generates some kind of information.

And with more and more people gaining access to the internet and the exponential increase in digital technology, more data are being generated. It is impossible for human brains to keep up with the amount of interaction and information upload over the internet every day.

Hence learning algorithms powered by neural networks can learn to recognize patterns in data for prediction, identification, and classification. By leveraging ANNs, it is possible to process large datasets quickly and accurately while reducing the cost associated with manual processing or traditional computing solutions.

Additionally, ANNs can be used to identify patterns in data that may not be immediately obvious to humans, thus reducing errors and allowing for more accurate predictions and decisions. It can also allow the identification of new information, the discovery of new ideas, and bring innovation.

ANNs are very good at identifying patterns in data that we wouldn’t be able to see easily. For example, it can extract new information that humans would have missed and learn to identify patterns and make predictions about future events based on the findings.

Artificial neural networks are important and have a wide range of applications, from facial recognition to medical diagnosis, and are finding their way into autonomous driving. The technology is based on the idea that computers can learn from data, just like humans do.

By taking advantage of ANNs, we can create systems that can learn from data and make decisions without having to explicitly program them. This opens up many possibilities for creating smarter AI-based systems that can process large amounts of data and make assumptions.

Additionally, ANNs are capable of generalizing knowledge, allowing them to adapt to new situations with minimal training. It is becoming an essential part of the modern AI landscape due to its ability to make quick decisions without explicit programming.

Neural networks are revolutionizing many industries by providing more accurate results than traditional methods. The importance of artificial neural networks in the modern world cannot be overstated and it forms part of the future of AI.

The technology is used to solve a wide range of problems, from predicting stock prices to recognizing faces and objects. The importance of neural networks lies in their ability to learn from data to find patterns and correlations between different variables.

This makes them extremely useful for tackling complex problems that require more than just a simple rule-based approach used in traditional computers. The technology can also solve problems that are too difficult or time-consuming to solve using traditional methods.

Artificial neural networks’ importance and popularity will continue to increase as more powerful and accurate algorithms are developed. Hence computers will be able to make complex decisions with minimum human intervention.

Uses of neural networks

Artificial processing networks are a powerful tool for machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is made up of layers of neurons that process data, recognize patterns, and make predictions. ANNs are used in a variety of applications.

Since it is a system that can “learn” how to perform tasks by itself, it is being used to solve problems and gives computers the ability to understand contexts. The application of artificial neural networks are:

Computer vision

Neural networks are an important part of computer vision applications. They are used to detect objects and classify them, as well as to recognize faces and identify people. In addition, they are used for image segmentation, motion detection, and pattern recognition.

The use of artificial neural networks in computer vision has enabled more accurate and faster results compared to traditional computer vision techniques. This is because artificial neuron systems can learn from data and adapt to changes over time.

Furthermore, it can process large amounts of data quickly and accurately. As the technology continues to evolve, we can expect even more uses for ANNs in computer vision applications. From medical imaging diagnostics to autonomous vehicle navigation systems, these AI-powered tools will be essential for achieving greater accuracy in a wide range of tasks.

Speech recognition

Artificial Neural Networks are also used to improve the accuracy of speech recognition systems. They can learn from large datasets and can be trained to recognize different patterns in speech. They are also used to accurately identify and classify spoken words or phrases.

By leveraging the power of artificial neurons, it is possible to create systems that can understand complex conversations and provide accurate responses. Moreover, these systems can also be used for tasks such as voice command recognition and real-time voice-to-text transcription.

Natural language processing

ANNs are increasingly popular in Natural Language Processing (NLP). This is because they can learn from large amounts of data and can be used to solve complex problems in the field. They are used for a variety of tasks such as machine translation, text summarization, sentiment analysis, question answering, and more.

Artificial neurons can understand the context of a sentence, recognize patterns in text, and generate new sentences with similar meanings. This makes them very useful for tasks such as natural language generation, dialogue systems, and chatbots.

Other applications of artificial neural networks are speech recognition, voice synthesis, and image captioning. With their growing popularity, ANNs are sure to become an integral part of NLP research and development in the future.

Recommendation engine

Another use of artificial neural networks is for building recommendation engines. It enables businesses to recommend products to customers based on their past behaviors and preferences. This helps them create personalized experiences for their customers and increase customer satisfaction.

Additionally, it can also be used to predict customer churn and suggest strategies to prevent it. The use of ANNs in recommendation engines is becoming increasingly popular as they can analyze user behavioral patterns and recommend products that match their needs or interests. This helps businesses increase sales and customer loyalty.

Predictive modeling

The use of neural networks in predictive modeling is becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to learn from large datasets and identify patterns that may not be obvious to the human eye. The system can provide insights from complex datasets and are particularly effective at predicting time-series data.

With the help of ANNs, we can make more accurate predictions about future events and trends by analyzing historical data and comparing it with actual ones. This can be especially useful for businesses that need to make informed decisions quickly and accurately.

Machine translation

Artificial neurons in translation systems enable machines to learn and understand language like humans do. It can quickly translate large amounts of text from one language to another while maintaining accuracy and fluency.

The use of ANNs in machine translation has also enabled companies to create more accurate translations for their customers without having to hire a human translator or pay for expensive software solutions. This allowed them to save time and money while still providing high-quality translations for their customers.

Sentiment analysis

Artificial intelligence neural networks are used in various industries to analyze the sentiment of different types of data. This is done by training a model on large amounts of data, which can then be used to accurately predict the sentiment of new data.

Sentiment analysis is important for computers to analyze customer feedback, understand context, detect fake news, and more. ANNs are particularly useful for this task because they can capture complex relationships between words and phrases that may not be obvious from traditional text analysis methods.

Facial recognition

ANNs are also an important tool for facial recognition. It allows facial recognition systems to identify and differentiate between different faces in images and videos. This technology is being used in many areas such as security, biometrics, surveillance, and marketing.

The application of neural networks has enabled facial recognition systems to be more accurate and reliable than ever before. By using a combination of facial feature datasets, ANNs can recognize faces with great accuracy.

Benefits of neural networks

Artificial neurons are a type of machine learning algorithm that is used to process information quite similarly to how brain neurons process information. The benefits of artificial neural networks cannot be overstated as they can:

Generalized data – meaning that they can learn to predict or classify information that is not specifically training data. They can be trained using a much smaller dataset than traditional algorithms. It can also generalize data from a wide variety of sources, including text, images, and data sets with a high degree of complexity.

Improve efficiency – with its ability to learn from data and “recognize” patterns, ANNs can tackle problems that would be difficult for a single human brain traditional computer to solve.

Make smarter calculations – meaning it can be used to perform complex and sophisticated mathematical calculations and recognize and process images, sounds, and other forms of data.

Learn complex tasks – since the network can retain previous experiences to improve its accuracy, it can learn complex tasks quickly.

Process data fast – since the system has multiple nodes with different sets of knowledge that work like the human brain, they can learn and process data much faster than traditional computer algorithms.

Find complex relationships between data – as ANNs are made up of a large number of connected neurons, they can learn to recognize patterns in data and identify correlations between different variables.

Continuously Learn and improve – as the system can learn and retain previous experience, it can automatically perform complex tasks by analyzing data. Hence when expose to new data, ANNs can continue to improve their performance over time. They are also capable of “learning” from their mistakes to improve themselves.

Identify patterns and trends in data – as the models are made up of a large number of interconnected processing nodes, they are very efficient at analyzing, identifying, and predicting patterns in large datasets.

Provide predictive analytics – ANNs mathematical models are very efficient at predicting outcomes based on input data. This makes them perfect for applications such as prediction, forecasting, and trend recognition.

Adapt to the changing condition – as the algorithms can be “trained” to solve complex problems in a fraction of the time it would take a human to do, they can retain information and predict future events, they can easily adapt to changing conditions in an environment.

Have a wide range of applications – as ANNs can predict the outcome of events, make data-based decisions, learn new information, recognize patterns, and adapt to changing environments, they are finding their way into different industries and applications.

Be effective at visual analysis – as the networks can recognize patterns and relationships in data that are not immediately apparent, they are especially useful for applications such as facial recognition or object recognition.

Process unorganized data – as neural networks are composed of interconnected processing nodes that can learn by themselves and retain information by taking in input data and passing output data to other neurons, this enables the model to process unorganized data in a more organized fashion.

Continually expanded to new complex fields – by processing large amounts of data, the networks learn gain more experience and develop more intricate models. This means that ANNs can automatically improve their accuracy, understand new information and become more versatile.

Future of neural networks

Artificial neural networks are a rapidly growing field of machine learning and artificial intelligence research. With the ever-increasing amount of information the world is generating, ANNs are becoming more and more essential for data processing and making decisions based on the patterns they find.

With their ability to learn from experience, ANNs have become increasingly popular in recent years for various applications such as computer vision, natural language processing, chatbots, recommendation engine, and more.

This subset of artificial intelligence produces computer models that imitate the workings of the human brain. Hence, the future of artificial neural networks looks very promising. They are already being used in a number of applications, including facial recognition, language translation, and machine learning.

They are also being used to create new artificial intelligence applications from automating mundane tasks to providing personalized user experiences. Artificial neurons are making waves in the tech world and their potential applications are virtually limitless.

The most promising use of artificial neural networks is training computers to recognize patterns in data, make predictions about future events and autonomously improve themselves. This process can create computer programs that can perform complex tasks and help solve earth-pressing issues like poverty, inequality, and global warming.

With the advancement of technology and the increasing availability of data, ANNs are making way for deep learning. Deep learning is being used to improve medical diagnosis accuracy, create autonomous vehicles, enhance robotics, and even detect fraud.

Deep learning is also being used to develop intelligent agents that can interact with humans in natural language conversations. As more research is conducted on ANNs and deep learning algorithms continue to improve, their applications are becoming increasingly varied and powerful.

The global neural network market was valued at USD 14.35 billion in 2020. The market is expected to register a CAGR of 26.7% between 2021 to 2030. The market value is expected to reach USD 152.61 billion by 2030.

In the future, artificial neural networks will be used to analyze large data sets and make predictions about how the market will react thus enabling new products and services. It will also offer a wealth of personalized choices for users worldwide.

The rapid adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning by companies today indicates that neural networks will become more commonplace in the near future. The field of artificial intelligence is still in its infancy.

Neural networks could become faster in the future. With microprocessors becoming more powerful, ANNs tools will be embedded in every design surface. Hence the technology will find its way into the fields of medicine, agriculture, physics, research, and anything else you can imagine.

Final words

Artificial neural networks are a type of machine learning algorithm that simulated human neurons to model how data patterns interact. It has the potential to change the way we interact with our technologies and the world.

ANNs are being used to recognize patterns in data, and then make decisions based on that information. This characteristic is improving the accuracy of our technology and automating tasks that are currently performed by humans.

In the future, artificial neural networks may be used to diagnose and treat diseases. They could also be used to create predictive models of human behavior. This could help businesses better predict customer behavior, and optimize their marketing strategies.

ANNs are still in their early stages of development. However, their potential impact on the world is enormous. They are ushering in a new era of machine learning and technological advancement. ANNs will be an important part of AI development as they become more powerful and efficient at solving complex problems.