Anatomical origin and computational role of diversity in the response properties of cortical neurons

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 7 (NIPS 1994)

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Kalanit Spector, Shimon Edelman, Rafael Malach


The maximization of diversity of neuronal response properties has been recently suggested as an organizing principle for the formation of such prominent features of the functional architecture of the brain as the corti(cid:173) cal columns and the associated patchy projection patterns (Malach, 1994). We show that (1) maximal diversity is attained when the ratio of dendritic and axonal arbor sizes is equal to one, as found in many cortical areas and across species (Lund et al., 1993; Malach, 1994), and (2) that maxi(cid:173) mization of diversity leads to better performance in systems of receptive fields implementing steerable/shiftable filters, and in matching spatially distributed signals, a problem that arises in many high-level visual tasks.

1 Anatomical substrate for sampling diversity

A fundamental feature of cortical architecture is its columnar organization, mani(cid:173) fested in the tendency of neurons with similar properties to be organized in columns that run perpendicular to the cortical surface. This organization of the cortex was ini(cid:173) tially discovered by physiological experiments (Mouncastle, 1957; Hubel and Wiesel, 1962), and subsequently confirmed with the demonstration of histologically defined columns. Tracing experiments have shown that axonal projections throughout the cerebral cortex tend to be organized in vertically aligned clusters or patches. In par(cid:173) ticular, intrinsic horizontal connections linking neighboring cortical sites, which may extend up to 2 - 3 mm, have a striking tendency to arborize selectively in preferred sites, forming distinct axonal patches 200 - 300 J.lm in diameter.

Recently, it has been observed that the size of these patches matches closely the average diameter of individual dendritic arbors of upper-layer pyramidal cells


Kalanit Grill Spector, Shimon Edelman, Rafael Malach