Unsupervised learning models of primary cortical receptive fields and receptive field plasticity

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 24 (NIPS 2011)

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Maneesh Bhand, Ritvik Mudur, Bipin Suresh, Andrew Saxe, Andrew Ng


The efficient coding hypothesis holds that neural receptive fields are adapted to the statistics of the environment, but is agnostic to the timescale of this adaptation, which occurs on both evolutionary and developmental timescales. In this work we focus on that component of adaptation which occurs during an organism's lifetime, and show that a number of unsupervised feature learning algorithms can account for features of normal receptive field properties across multiple primary sensory cortices. Furthermore, we show that the same algorithms account for altered receptive field properties in response to experimentally altered environmental statistics. Based on these modeling results we propose these models as phenomenological models of receptive field plasticity during an organism's lifetime. Finally, due to the success of the same models in multiple sensory areas, we suggest that these algorithms may provide a constructive realization of the theory, first proposed by Mountcastle (1978), that a qualitatively similar learning algorithm acts throughout primary sensory cortices.