Neural Network

Back to Glossary

What Are Neural Networks?

Neural networks are a type of machine learning model that is meant to mimic the structure of the human brain. The idea behind neural networks is to use layers of interconnected nodes (also known as “neurons”) to process and analyze complex data. These nodes are organized into layers, with each layer performing a specific type of computation.

In a neural network, data is input into the first layer, which processes the information and passes it onto the next layer. Each layer applies a set of mathematical operations to the data it receives, and the output of one layer serves as the input to the next layer. The output of the final layer represents the output of the network, which is typically used to make predictions or classify data.

Neural networks are used in a wide range of applications, including image and speech recognition, natural language processing, and predictive modeling. They are also used in combination with other machine learning techniques, such as deep learning and reinforcement learning, to solve more complex problems.

RedisAI allows you to run your inference engine where the data lives, decreasing latency and increasing simplicity—all coupled with the core Redis Enterprise features.

How do neural networks work?

Neural networks are complex algorithms that work similar to the human brain. They consist of layers of interconnected neurons that process and transmit information. A neural network generally has three layers: input, hidden, and output. The input layer collects the input data, which is then processed in the hidden layers where most of the calculations occur. The output layer generates the final output of the network, which can be a prediction, classification, or regression value.

In the hidden layers, the computation is carried out using a set of weights and biases to process the input data and produce the output. Each neuron in the input layer receives some of the input data, multiplies it by a weight, adds a bias, and passes the result through an activation function. This process is repeated for each hidden layer, which then passes the result onto the output layer.

The accuracy of the predictions depends on adjusting the weights and biases as the input moves through the network layers. This process is called training, and it involves teaching the network how to make predictions based on the input data. The network learns by reducing the error between the expected and actual output using the backpropagation algorithm. The backpropagation algorithm computes the gradient of the error with respect to the weights and changes the weights in the direction that reduces the error. This helps the network improve its prediction accuracy over time.

Overview of neural network architecture

Neurons are arranged in layers to form neural networks, and each layer serves a particular purpose. A neural network’s basic architecture can be divided into three types of neurons (input, hidden, and output) and several types of layers (input, hidden, output, convolutional, recurrent, pooling, fully connected, dropout, and batch normalization). 

Neurons and layers

We will define each type of aforementioned neuron and layer to explain their purpose.


The aforementioned types of neurons are listed as follows:


The aforementioned types of layers are listed as follows though it’s worth noting that not all neural networks will have all of these layer types, and the specific types of layers used will depend on the task at hand:

Activation functions

Activation functions are used in neural networks to introduce non-linearity into the output of each neuron. Though, not all neural networks use activation functions (e.g., some linear regression models can be considered neural networks but do not use activation functions). There are several distinct categories of activation functions, each suitable for various use cases. Some of them are mentioned below:

Types of neural networks

Neural networks come in a variety of forms, each of which is intended to address a particular problem. Some of the most popular ones are as follows:

Feedforward neural networks

This is one of the simplest neural networks, also known as multi-layer perceptrons (MLPs), where input data flows only in one direction throughout the network. The input nodes receive data and send it to output nodes via hidden layers, and no backward links exist in the network that can be used to send information from the output node. They are frequently used in simple classification or regression tasks.

Backpropagation algorithm

It is one of the most widely used training algorithms in deep learning. Multiple neural networks use this training algorithm to adjust the weights and biases using gradient descent. First, it calculates the error gradient with respect to the neurons’ weights between the predicted and the actual output. Then, the weights are changed in a way that minimizes the error. 

Convolutional neural networks (CNNs)

Similar to a conventional neural network, convolution is a linear operation that involves multiplying a set of weights with the input. The multiplication is carried out between an array of input data and a filter or kernel, a two-dimensional array of weights. 

Convolutional neural networks consist of one or more pooling layers that shrink the size of the feature maps and one or more convolutional layers that apply a series of filters to the input image to extract features. They are specifically designed for image and classification tasks like object detection, facial recognition, and self-driving cars.

Recurrent neural networks (RNNs)

In contrast to feedforward neural networks that process the input data in a fixed order, RNNs have feedback loops that enable data to be passed from one-time step to the next. Additionally, they are made to handle sequential data. Therefore, they are suitable for tasks where the context of the input data is crucial, such as speech recognition, language translation, sentiment analysis, stock market prediction, and fraud detection.

Deep neural networks

Deep neural networks consist of multiple hidden layers. Compared to traditional neural networks, DNNs can learn more intricate representations of the input data. Therefore, they are used in numerous complex applications, such as natural language processing (NLP) models, speech recognition, and image recognition. 

Challenges and future of neural networks

Although neural networks have shown impressive results in a variety of applications, there are still many issues that need to be resolved. A few challenges concerning the future of neural networks are discussed below:

  1. Limited training data: For neural networks to learn and generalize effectively, it requires a large dataset. Obtaining high-quality data in some industries, such as healthcare or finance, might be challenging or expensive, constraining the efficacy of neural networks.
  2. Overfitting and underfitting: One of the biggest challenges that neural networks face is overfitting and underfitting, which occurs when the network is too complex or simple for the task. It sometimes fails to recognize the optimal path to solve the problem. 
  3. Interpretability and transparency: The transparency and interpretability of neural networks in their decisions to solve tasks are always in question, making it difficult to understand.
  4. Advancements in hardware:  With time, as neural networks are getting more complex, they need more powerful hardware to function effectively. As a result, specialized hardware needs to be created. While some complex tasks can be solved by graphics processing units (GPUs) and tensor processing units (TPUs), in the near future, more sophisticated hardware will be required to handle more of the complicated jobs.
  5. Ethics and regulation: As neural networks become stronger, ethical concerns are in debate by many computer scientists. Its usage has had many repercussions, such as the lack of data privacy, bias, discrimination, misuse of personal data, etc. The only solution is properly laying down regulations to restrict its hazardous usage.

These difficulties show that even though neural networks have made significant progress in many fields of study, work remains to be done to increase their sturdiness, dependability, and accessibility.

However, in many fields, neural networks are now a powerful resource for solving challenging issues. They are crucial for applications like image recognition, natural language processing, robotics, and finance due to their ability to learn from large datasets, adapt to changing environments, and generalize to new situations. However, neural networks must overcome several difficulties, such as overfitting, interpretability, moral dilemmas, and computational demands. It will take ongoing research and cross-disciplinary cooperation, such as computer science, mathematics, and ethics, to solve these problems. 

Despite these difficulties, neural networks have a bright future in changing how we live, work, and interact with technology. We can anticipate even greater advancements in various applications, such as healthcare and education, as we continue to create more complex neural network architectures and methodologies.