The minimization of a free energy is often regarded as the key principle in understanding how the brain works and how the brain structure forms. In particular, a statistical-mechanics-based neural network model is expected to allow one to interpret many aspects of the neural firing and learning processes in terms of general concepts and mechanisms in statistical physics. Nevertheless, the definition of the free energy in a neural system is usually an intricate problem without an evident solution. After the pioneering work by Hopfield, several statistical-mechanics-based models have suggested a variety of definition of the free energy or the entropy in a neural system. Among those, the Feynman machine, proposed recently, presents the free energy of a neural system defined via the Feynman path integral formulation with the explicit time variable. In this study, we first give a brief review of the previous relevant models, paying attention to the troublesome problems in them, and examine how the Feynman machine overcomes several vulnerable points in previous models and derives the outcome of the firing or the learning rule in a (biological) neural system as the extremum state in the free energy. Specifically, the model reveals that the biological learning mechanism, called spike-timing-dependent plasticity, relates to the free-energy minimization principle. Basically, computing and learning mechanisms in the Feynman machine base on the exact spike timings of neurons, such as those in a biological neural system. We discuss the consequence of the adoption of an explicit time variable in modeling a neural system and the application of the free-energy minimization principle to understanding the phenomena in the brain.
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