Model Tutorial


The Brain-Score platform aims to yield strong computational models of the ventral stream. We enable researchers to quickly get a sense of how their model scores against standardized brain benchmarks on multiple dimensions and facilitate comparisons to other state-of-the-art models. At the same time, new brain data can quickly be tested against a wide range of models to determine how well existing models explain the data.

In a nutshell, Brain-Score evaluates the similarity to brain regions in the primate ventral stream as well as behavioral outputs, and gives a score (usually ranging from 0 to 1) on these various brain regions and behavioral benchmarks. This guide is a tutorial for researchers and tinkerers alike that outlines the setup, submission, and feedback system for users.


In this section, we will provide a quick and easy way to get your model(s) ready for submission. This is mainly for those who do not have the time to read or do the whole tutorial, or for those who just want to go ahead and submit a model quickly; however, we recommend referring back to this tutorial, especially if you encounter errors. This section also does not have pictures, which the other more lengthy sections below do. As an example, we will submit a version of AlexNet from Pytorch’s library; the main steps are outlined below:

  1. Clone a copy of the sample-model-submission repo. If you are wondering about what the various repos on the main Brain-Score github do, check out the Overview section below. Here is the command for a terminal:

    git clone
  2. Install the dependencies via pip. (Make sure to switch into the sample-model-submission folder that was created in step one above when you cloned the repo). You can read more about this in the Install Brain-Score Repos and Dependencies section below. The command for a terminal is:

    pip install .
  3. Specify the model to test. In this example, we can just use the model defined in, located in the examples folder of this repository. More info on this step can be found in the Submitting a Model to Part 1: Preparing the Model section of this guide. In essence, you need to implement the functions outlined in the sample-model-submission/models/ file.

  4. Test the model on your machine. You can do this simply by running the file (again, located in the examples folder) or the file where you implemented the template. If you followed the steps correctly, you should receive a message on the Python console indicating that you are ready to submit.

  5. Submit to This step is slightly brittle as of now, and is easy to do wrong; we recommend skipping down to Submitting a Model to Part 2: Upload section to see the structure of the zip file that our site needs in order to process your submission. That’s it! Read more below to get a better idea of the process, or to help fix bugs that might come up.


Brain-Score sounds great! How do I get started? What do I do next? How do I submit?

Start here if you have already (or would like to create) a model to submit and get a Brain-Score. This guide will walk you through from downloading our code to receiving a submission score from the website. Completion of the tutorial should take about 15-20 minutes.

What does Brain-Score look like, exactly?

The main code for Brain-Score is contained and hosted on Github on various repos, free for anyone to fork, clone, or download. The main page has 10 repos (9 visible to non-devs) that make up the entire source code base- this can be overwhelming, but fear not. We will introduce you to each one, as well as explain that you most likely will only need a single repo to get a model up and scored. It is good to see, however, the structure of how Brain-Score operates with its various components. They are:

  1. brain-score: the heart of the code that runs analysis and comparisons.

  2. sample-model-submission: template and examples for model submissions.

  3. candidate_models: various pre-trained models/models that have already been scored.

  4. model-tools: helper functions that translate from machine learning models to brain models to be tested on brain-score.

  5. brainio: the packaging and lookup system for data assemblies and stimulus sets.

  6. result_caching: a helper repo to store the results of function calls so they can be re-used without re-computing.

  7. brain-score.web: website front and back end.

  8. brainio_base, brainio_collection and brainio_contrib (archived): used in the past to manage stimuli and datasets.

Which repo(s) will I use?

When we get to the install guide, we will show you exactly how to clone/fork a repo for your own project in the easiest way possible. But for now, you will mainly only need the sample-model-submission repo.

How do I get a Brain-Score for my model?

When you submit a model to our website, it is scored against all availible benchmarks (e.g. neural predictivity on IT recordings from Majaj*, Hong* et al. 2015; see Benchmarks for more details). The (hierarchical) mean of individual benchmark scores is the Brain-Score itself. Before submitting your model, you might want to get a quick sense of its performance; to that end, we provide public benchmarks that you can run locally, which are different subsets of the larger benchmark dataset. This is mainly used to optimize your model before submission, or if you want to score models locally on publicly available data. Note: a submission is the only way to score models on private evaluation data.

Why do you recommend installing and submitting the way outlined in this guide? In other words, why should I do it your way?

A reasonable question, and it is always good to be skeptical. The short answer is that using an IDE like Pycharm or VSCode along with virtual environments drastically cuts the error rate for install down, as well as makes the whole process of installing dependencies easier. Using a venv also helps with headaches caused by clashes between Anaconda and PIP, and Pycharm (or another IDE like VSCode) takes care of that.

Do I have to read/do this entire tutorial to submit a model?

No - You can just read the Quickstart section, if you do not wish to read/do this entire tutorial. However, we recommend referring back to this tutorial to help with errors that might pop up along the way.

Install Brain-Score Repos and Dependencies

In this section, we will show you how to get packages installed and dependencies linked in order to run setup for submission and scoring.

  1. Download Pycharm or another IDE. Note: you do not have to use Pycharm per se, but we recommend it, and this guide will show you how to integrate Brain-Score with it. If you do not have experience with Pycharm, here’s a nice introduction. Again, we recommend and like Pycharm, but this tutorial is neutral in the sense that you can use any IDE, as the steps are very similar for other environments, but this document will feature a Pycharm screenshot.

  2. Once Pycharm (or your own IDE) is set up, we will start the install of Brain-Score and its various repos. First, in your file explorer, make a new file on your desktop or favorite place to save things. I personally made a folder called brainscore-brief in my /desktop folder. Create a new project, and your IDE should ask you for a location to create said project. We recommend setting up the path to be the newly created folder from above, in my case the path is


    Your IDE will create a Python interpreter for the project (the piece of code that tells the computer how to run various Python commands) by setting up a Virtual Environment for you automatically. A venv is handy because installing the dependencies that Brain-Score needs will not conflict with other packages on your computer if you use a venv. You should now see your folder brainscore-brief that is the project root. If you click to expand it, then you will see folder marked venv that contains all the venv files and whatnot. I would not mess with the venv folder or download anything in there. Again, your IDE will most likely be different if you do not use Pycharm, but the main points still hold.

  3. Next, we are going to clone the repo we need from Github for Brain-Score. The easiest way to do this is to install Git on your computer (Windows) or Mac (Mac), if it is not already installed. Once this is done, open up your terminal and navigate into the brainscore-brief folder. In my case, the commands are

    cd desktop
    cd brainscore-brief

    After you are in this folder, run:

    git clone

    This will copy our sample-model-submission code from Github into your local machine to run later on. Switching back to your IDE’s file explorer, you should now see a folder called sample-model-submission in your project root. Clicking on/expanding this will show you the various files and programs that are in our collection for the sample-model-submission repo. You can see the various folders in the image below: the top level brainscore-brief is the folder that we created a few steps ago. The next level sample-model-submission is the repo cloned from our Github. You should now see something akin to below when you look at your version on your machine:


  1. We will now install the pip packages that our code needs to run: things like scipy and imageio , etc. In your IDE, or using your main computer terminal, switch into your root directory, in this case brainscore-brief. Navigate into the repo directory, sample-model-submission, using the command

    cd sample-model-submission

    (which should be one level down from the original created folder/directory). Once you are in this sample-model-submission repo, run the command below (note the period; this tells pip to install all the dependencies you will need, a nice and handy way to do this).

    pip install .

    In Pycharm, you can check to make sure these dependencies were installed correctly by going into

    Pycharm -> settings (preferences on Mac) -> project: brainscore-brief -> project interpreter

    where you will see a list of around 100 packages like toml, xarray, and Keras-preprocessing. (Note: installing all the dependencies will take around 2-5 mins on your machine, depending on the hardware/internet). A different IDE will most likely have a similar feature, but this tutorial uses Pycharm.

  2. Congrats! You now have completed the hardest part of install. Also remember before running the pip command, make sure to navigate using terminal into the correct folder using the

    cd sample-model-submission

    command to ensure it is installed in the right place- otherwise you get error #1 in the Common Errors: Setup section. Feel free to explore the various files and get a feel for them.

That’s it! You have downloaded and retrieved all of the files you need to submit a model! Take a break and go get some lunch or some donuts. If you get an error that is not listed/resolved below, reach out to us at MIT and we can (most likely) help:

Submitting a Model to Part 1: Preparing the Model

By now you should have the sample-model-submission repo cloned and the dependencies installed. It is now time to prepare your model to be submitted! In this part we will submit a standard, generic form of AlexNet (implemented in Pytorch) in order to get a feel for the submission process. In Part 3 we will show you how to submit a custom Pytorch model, which is most helpful for those that want to submit their own model.

  1. Navigate, using your IDE’s Project Window (usually the left side of the screen that shows all the folders/files), into the sample-model-submission/examples/ Python file. If you did the above steps correctly, you will be able to simply hit run on this file and the “prepping” service will commence. What does that mean? The code in this file downloads, prepares, and “mock scores” your model on a benchmark of choice, in order to ensure everything works correctly for the main Brain-Score site submission. It is like a check: if all goes well running this code, then your model is ready to submit to the site to be scored. (Note: the first time running this file will take a bit, because you have to download the model weights as well as ImageNet validation images for PCA initialization.

  2. If this works correctly, then you will get a message on the Python console declaring:

    Test successful, you are ready to submit!

    and you can jump down below to Part 2, but we recommend reading the rest of the steps to understand what’s going on. A common error regarding SSL might happen at this point and is #2 on the Common Errors: Setup section, so check that out if you get that error.

  3. Explore Further: navigate to sample-model-submission/models/ using the project explorer. You will see that this is basically a blank version of the file, and serves as a template to make new models to submit. The file that you just successfully ran is an instance of this template, and this template declares how models must be structured to be scored. For now, we will just submit the AlexNet model as is.

Submitting a Model to Part 2: Upload

If you made it this far, you are ready to upload your AlexNet model and get a Brain-Score! In a nutshell, this step is simply zipping the folder and making sure the files to submit are in the right place.

  1. Right now, the working code we have confirmed is ready to submit is in the file, located in our examples folder. We are going to make the final submission package by simply copying the sample-model-submission folder and renaming it to something like my_alexnet_subission.

  2. Once you have created your new folder, copy the code from and paste it into the base_models python file in the my_alexnet_subission folder we just created. You do not need the examples folder anymore, so you can delete that, as well as the file and the file. Caution: only delete the files in the my_alexnet_subission folder we created and not the original sample-model-submission folder.

  3. You are basically done at this point, and your final package should look similiar to the picture below. Remember, the actual model is now contained in the models/ file, and that is what is getting run on our site to get a score for you.

    my_alexnet_subission (main folder)
        models (subfolder)
  4. You are now ready to submit! Zip the folder named my_alexnet_subission, navigate to Brain-Score’s profile page, log in/create a new account, and submit the model! Usually (depending on how busy the time of year is) it will take around 1 hour or so to score, but might take longer. If you do not see a score within 24 hours, contact us and we can send you (soon you will have access to this yourself) the error logs to resubmit. You have now successfully submitted a model! Congrats, and we look forward to having more submissions from you. In the future, you can just copy the submission package and paste in your code into models/, and it should work.

Submitting a Model to Part 3: Custom model (Optional)

At this point, I would say that you are pretty comfortable with the submission, and hopefully you have submitted at least one model and gotten a score. So, in this section, we will skip some of the parts that are common with submitting a custom model (vs. something like AlexNet), and just focus on what is different.

  1. In short, submitting a custom model is not that difficult for those that have already submitted a model like AlexNet and have a submission package ready. If you have not done this, we highly recommend going through this tutorial beforehand, or else you will encounter some errors along the way.

  2. The entire package we submit will be the same as a pretrained model, but with the models/ file different (as the model itself is different). So, we would recommend just copying the my_alexnet_submission folder, pasting it, and renaming it to something like my_custom_submission. This will take care of all the tricky submission stuff, and you can just focus on implementing the actual model inside models/

  3. Now the fun part: scoring a model that you create! In this section we will be implementing a light-weight Pytorch model and submitting that. All this entails is adding a little bit of extra stuff to models/

  4. The easiest way to do this is to simply copy all the code in the block below, and we can walk you through the important stuff that is necessary to understand how to submit a custom model. It is, in a nutshell, just a slightly more complicated version of the original template in the sample-model-submissions folder. The code is listed below

    # Custom Pytorch model from:
    from model_tools.check_submission import check_models
    import numpy as np
    import torch
    from torch import nn
    import functools
    from model_tools.activations.pytorch import PytorchWrapper
    from brainscore import score_model
    from model_tools.brain_transformation import ModelCommitment
    from model_tools.activations.pytorch import load_preprocess_images
    from brainscore import score_model
    Template module for a base model submission to brain-score
    # define your custom model here:
    class MyModel(nn.Module):
        def __init__(self):
            super(MyModel, self).__init__()
            self.conv1 = torch.nn.Conv2d(in_channels=3, out_channels=2, kernel_size=3)
            self.relu1 = torch.nn.ReLU()
            linear_input_size = np.power((224 - 3 + 2 * 0) / 1 + 1, 2) * 2
            self.linear = torch.nn.Linear(int(linear_input_size), 1000)
            self.relu2 = torch.nn.ReLU()  # can't get named ReLU output otherwise
        def forward(self, x):
            x = self.conv1(x)
            x = self.relu1(x)
            x = x.view(x.size(0), -1)
            x = self.linear(x)
            x = self.relu2(x)
            return x
    # init the model and the preprocessing:
    preprocessing = functools.partial(load_preprocess_images, image_size=224)
    # get an activations model from the Pytorch Wrapper
    activations_model = PytorchWrapper(identifier='my-model', model=MyModel(), preprocessing=preprocessing)
    # actually make the model, with the layers you want to see specified:
    model = ModelCommitment(identifier='my-model', activations_model=activations_model,
                            # specify layers to consider
                            layers=['conv1', 'relu1', 'relu2'])
    # The model names to consider. If you are making a custom model, then you most likley want to change
    # the return value of this function.
    def get_model_list():
        This method defines all submitted model names. It returns a list of model names.
        The name is then used in the get_model method to fetch the actual model instance.
        If the submission contains only one model, return a one item list.
        :return: a list of model string names
        return ['my-model']
    # get_model method actually gets the model. For a custom model, this is just linked to the
    # model we defined above.
    def get_model(name):
        This method fetches an instance of a base model. The instance has to be callable and return a xarray object,
        containing activations. There exist standard wrapper implementations for common libraries, like pytorch and
        keras. Checkout the examples folder, to see more. For custom implementations check out the implementation of the
        :param name: the name of the model to fetch
        :return: the model instance
        assert name == 'my-model'
        # link the custom model to the wrapper object(activations_model above):
        wrapper = activations_model
        wrapper.image_size = 224
        return wrapper
    # get_layers method to tell the code what layers to consider. If you are submitting a custom
    # model, then you will most likley need to change this method's return values.
    def get_layers(name):
        This method returns a list of string layer names to consider per model. The benchmarks maps brain regions to
        layers and uses this list as a set of possible layers. The lists doesn't have to contain all layers, the less the
        faster the benchmark process works. Additionally the given layers have to produce an activations vector of at least
        size 25! The layer names are delivered back to the model instance and have to be resolved in there. For a pytorch
        model, the layer name are for instance dot concatenated per module, e.g. "features.2".
        :param name: the name of the model, to return the layers for
        :return: a list of strings containing all layers, that should be considered as brain area.
        # quick check to make sure the model is the correct one:
        assert name == 'my-model'
        # returns the layers you want to consider
        return  ['conv1', 'relu1', 'relu2']
    # Bibtex Method. For submitting a custom model, you can either put your own Bibtex if your
    # model has been published, or leave the empty return value if there is no publication to refer to.
    def get_bibtex(model_identifier):
        A method returning the bibtex reference of the requested model as a string.
        # from
        return ''
    # Main Method: In submitting a custom model, you should not have to mess with this.
    if __name__ == '__main__':
        # Use this method to ensure the correctness of the BaseModel implementations.
        # It executes a mock run of brain-score benchmarks.
  5. The first is the imports: you will most likely need all of them that the code above has listed. If you try to run the above code in Google Colab (which is basically a Google version of Jupyter Notebooks), it will not run (due to packages not being installed), and is just for visual purposes only; copy and paste the code into your models/ file. Next, you see the class definition of the custom model in Pytorch, followed by model preprocessing, the PytorchWrapper that converts a base model into an activations model to extract activations from, and the ModelCommitment to convert the activations model into a BrainModel to run on the benchmarks. We usually test the layers at the outputs of blocks, but this choice is up to you. You will need all of this, and most likely will only change the actual layer names based on the network/what you want scored.

  6. Next is the function for “naming” the model, and should be replaced with whatever you want to call your model. The next function tells the code what to score, and you most likely will not have to change this. This is followed by a layer function that simply returns a list of the layers to consider. Next is is the bibtex method, and you can replace this with your bibtex if your model has been published. Lastly, the concluding lines contain and call the __main__ method, and you shouldn’t need to modify this.

  7. That’s it! You can change the actual model in the class definition, just make sure you change the layer names as well. Run your models/ file, and you should get the following message indicating you are good to submit:

    Test successful, you are ready to submit!

    At this point, all that is left is to zip the my_custom_submission folder and actually submit on our site! If you run into any errors, check out the Common Errors: Submission section of this guide, and if you can’t find a solution, feel free to email us!

Common Errors: Setup

Below are some common errors that you might encounter while setting up this project or doing this tutorial. We will add more soon!

  1. When running pip install ., you get a message from the terminal like:

    Directory '.' is not installable. Neither '' nor 'pyproject.toml' found.

    Cause: Not running pip install . in the right directory: most likely you are in the original brainscore-brief folder we created, and not the sample_model_submission sub-folder that is the repo we should be in.

    Fix: if you are in the main brainscore-brief folder, simply run:

    cd sample_model_submission

    and then rerun the

    pip install .

    command. This navigates to the correct sample_model_submission subfolder and installs the packages where they are supposed to be. More generally: make sure you are in the sample_model_submission folder (and not its parent or child folder) before you run the pip command above. This should fix the error.

  2. After install while running for the first time, you get:

    ssl.SSLCertVerificationError: [SSL: CERTIFICATE_VERIFY_FAILED] certificate verify failed: unable to get local issuer certificate (_ssl.c:1076)

    Cause: Pytorch’s backend. The SSL certificate for downloading a pre-trained model has expired from their end and Pytorch should renew soon (usually ~4 hrs)

    Fix: If you can’t wait, add the following lines of code to your (or whatever file is using the pretrained Pytorch models): Note: Pycharm might throw a warning about this line, but you can disregard):

    import ssl
    ssl._create_default_https_context = ssl._create_unverified_context

Common Errors: Submission

  1. It has been 24 hours since I submitted my model, and I have not gotten a score? What happened?

    Cause: There are many issues that could cause this.

    Fix: If it happens, email and we can check the logs and tell you what happened. You will, very soon, be able to log in and check the logs yourself, so stay tuned!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What are all the numbers on the Brain-Score site?

    As of now on the leaderboard (Brain-Score), there are 6 numbers that your model would get: average, V1, V2, V4, IT, and Behavioral. Each one of these is a set of benchmarks that tests how “brain-like” your model is to various cognitive and neural data- in essence, it is a measure of how close the model is to the brain. Models are also tested on “Engineering” benchmarks which are non-brain, typically machine learning measures that the brain measures can be related to (e.g. more V1-like → more robust to image perturbations).

  2. What is the idea behind Brain-Score? Where can I learn more?

    The website is a great place to start, and for those who really want to dive deep, we would recommend reading the technical paper and the perspective paper. that outline the idea and the inner workings of how Brain-Score operates.

  3. I was looking at the code and I found an error in the code/docs/etc. How can I contribute?

    Right now, the easiest way would be to fork (make a copy of the Brain-Score project repos in your own Github) our Brain-Score repos, edit your version, and submit a pull request (PR) to merge it into our master branch. We will have to confirm that PR, but will thank you for contributing!

  4. I really like Brain-Score, and I have some ideas that I would love to talk to someone about. How do I get in touch/who do I talk to?

    Martin Schrimpf, the main creator of Brain-Score, would be a great place to start. Chris Shay, the DiCarlo Lab manager, can also help, and if you need to talk to Jim DiCarlo himself you can reach out as well. We will also be creating a mailing list soon, so stay tuned. All contact info is on the lab website:

  5. I am a neuroscientist/cognitive scientist/cognitive-AI-neuro-computational-systems-scientist and would love to talk theory or contribute to benchmarks, as I have collected data or have theoretical questions. What should I do?

    I would reach out to Martin, Chris, or Jim directly, via the lab website as stated above.

  6. Is there any reward for reaching the top overall Brain-Score? Or even a top score on the individual benchmarks?

    We hope to set up a dedicated competition in the near future, but we monitor the site and if you get a top score, we will know and reach out. If you are local and get the top average score, we might even buy you a beer if you’re nice to us :)