Efficient coding of natural scenes improves neural system identification


Neural system identification aims at learning the response function of neurons to arbitrary stimuli using experimentally recorded data, but typically does not leverage coding principles such as efficient coding of natural environments. Visual systems, however, have evolved to efficiently process input from the natural environment. Here, we present a normative network regularization for system identification models by incorporating, as a regularizer, the efficient coding hypothesis, which states that neural response properties of sensory representations are strongly shaped by the need to preserve most of the stimulus information with limited resources. Using this approach, we explored if a system identification model can be improved by sharing its convolutional filters with those of an autoencoder which aims to efficiently encode natural stimuli. To this end, we built a hybrid model to predict the responses of retinal neurons to noise stimuli. This approach did not only yield a higher performance than the “stand-alone” system identification model, it also produced more biologically-plausible filters. We found these results to be consistent for retinal responses to different stimuli and across model architectures. Moreover, our normatively regularized model performed particularly well in predicting responses of direction-of-motion sensitive retinal neurons. In summary, our results support the hypothesis that efficiently encoding environmental inputs can improve system identification models of early visual processing.SignificanceComputational models use experimental data to learn stimulus-response functions of neurons, but they are rarely informed by normative …

Matthias Bethge
Matthias Bethge
Professor for Computational Neuroscience and Machine Learning & Director of the Tübingen AI Center

Matthias Bethge is Professor for Computational Neuroscience and Machine Learning at the University of Tübingen and director of the Tübingen AI Center, a joint center between Tübingen University and MPI for Intelligent Systems that is part of the German AI strategy.