McCulloch-Pitts Neurons

Michael Marsalli: Author
XXXX: Animator


In 1943 Warren S. McCulloch, a neuroscientist, and Walter Pitts, a logician, published "A logical calculus of the ideas immanent in nervous activity" in the Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics 5:115-133. In this paper McCulloch and Pitts tried to understand how the brain could produce highly complex patterns by using many basic cells that are connected together. These basic brain cells are called neurons, and McCulloch and Pitts gave a highly simplified model of a neuron in their paper. The McCulloch and Pitts model of a neuron, which we will call an MCP neuron for short, has made an important contribution to the development of artificial neural networks -- which model key features of biological neurons.

The original MCP Neurons had limitations. Additional features were added which allowed them to "learn." The next major development in neural networks was the concept of a perceptron which was introduced by Frank Rosenblatt in 1958. Essentially the perceptron is an MCP neuron where the inputs are first passed through some "preprocessors," which are called association units. These association units detect the presence of certain specific features in the inputs. In fact, as the name suggests, a perceptron was intended to be a pattern recognition device, and the association units correspond to feature or pattern detectors.


This module comes in two parts. The Part I: Introductory Level which is five pages long and Part II: Intermediate Level which is six pages long. Part II presupposes a knowledge of everything in Part I.

McCulloch-Pitts Neurons: Part I - Introductory Level (5 pages)
McCulloch-Pitts Neurons: Part II - Intermediate Level (5 pages)

This module was supported by National Science Foundation Grants #9981217 and #0127561.