Neural network software is computer software used to simulate and predict the behavior of neural networks. Neural networks are complex networks of biological or organic signals, including systems within the body, such as the central nervous system, or patterns within the brain. This type of software can be used to model and make fairly accurate predictions about the development of a situation through user-generated inputs. Researchers and scientists typically use this type of software to help them understand neural systems in the absence of suitable test subjects, allowing them to make educated guesses about the possible results of various situations in the laboratory.
A biological neural network is a web of neurons that communicate with one another to accomplish a particular goal. For example, when an individual wants to move his or her hands, signals are generated in the body and sent along the central nervous system through the nerve pathways of the body, moving from the brain to the spine and finally winding up at the hand, allowing the movement to take place. This process generates pulses of bio-electricity through the body, much like ripples moving across the surface of a disturbed pond, which carries the signals and spikes activity along the desired pathway of neurons. Neural network software enables scientists to "see" the behavior taking place through computer aided simulation, measuring its impact on the other various parts of the body.
The complexity of neurons and neural networks make it impracticable to model these types of situations by hand. By allowing neural network software to calculate how bio-electrical signals move through the body, scientists can concentrate on the actual effect of the action, instead of becoming bogged down in the process itself. This simplifies research, allowing scientists to conduct hypothetical "what if?" situations that would be unethical or impractical to replicate using live test subjects.
For example, one could imagine a study investigating the damage caused by a stroke at the moment it occurs. While it would be highly unethical to take a test subject and induce a stroke, the same effect can be produced by modeling the event in neural network software. This software creates a virtual "sandbox" where scientists can play around with the effects that certain neural stimuli and see the impairments they could cause to the body.