A Biologically Plausible Model for Rapid Natural Scene Identification

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 22 (NIPS 2009)

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Sennay Ghebreab, Steven Scholte, Victor Lamme, Arnold Smeulders


Contrast statistics of the majority of natural images conform to a Weibull distribution. This property of natural images may facilitate efficient and very rapid extraction of a scenes visual gist. Here we investigate whether a neural response model based on the Weibull contrast distribution captures visual information that humans use to rapidly identify natural scenes. In a learning phase, we measure EEG activity of 32 subjects viewing brief flashes of 800 natural scenes. From these neural measurements and the contrast statistics of the natural image stimuli, we derive an across subject Weibull response model. We use this model to predict the responses to a large set of new scenes and estimate which scene the subject viewed by finding the best match between the model predictions and the observed EEG responses. In almost 90 percent of the cases our model accurately predicts the observed scene. Moreover, in most failed cases, the scene mistaken for the observed scene is visually similar to the observed scene itself. These results suggest that Weibull contrast statistics of natural images contain a considerable amount of scene gist information to warrant rapid identification of natural images.