Computational validity: using computation to translate behaviours across species

A. David Redish, Adam Kepecs, Lisa M. Anderson, Olivia L. Calvin, Nicola M. Grissom, Ann F. Haynos, Sarah R. Heilbronner, Alexander B. Herman, Suma Jacob, Sisi Ma, Iris Vilares, Sophia Vinogradov, Cody J. Walters, Alik S. Widge, Jennifer L. Zick, Anna Zilverstand

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We propose a new conceptual framework (computational validity) for translation across species and populations based on the computational similarity between the information processing underlying parallel tasks. Translating between species depends not on the superficial similarity of the tasks presented, but rather on the computational similarity of the strategies and mechanisms that underlie those behaviours. Computational validity goes beyond construct validity by directly addressing questions of information processing. Computational validity interacts with circuit validity as computation depends on circuits, but similar computations could be accomplished by different circuits. Because different individuals may use different computations to accomplish a given task, computational validity suggests that behaviour should be understood through the subject’s point of view; thus, behaviour should be characterized on an individual level rather than a task level. Tasks can constrain the computational algorithms available to a subject and the observed subtleties of that behaviour can provide information about the computations used by each individual. Computational validity has especially high relevance for the study of psychiatric disorders, given the new views of psychiatry as identifying and mediating information processing dysfunctions that may show high inter-individual variability, as well as for animal models investigating aspects of human psychiatric disorders. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Systems neuroscience through the lens of evolutionary theory’.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20200525
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1844
StatePublished - 2022


  • circuit validity
  • computational psychiatry
  • construct validity
  • cross-species translation
  • face validity


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