Neural Regression, Representational Similarity, Model Zoology & Neural Taskonomy at Scale in Rodent Visual Cortex

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 (NeurIPS 2021)

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Colin Conwell, David Mayo, Andrei Barbu, Michael Buice, George Alvarez, Boris Katz


How well do deep neural networks fare as models of mouse visual cortex? A majority of research to date suggests results far more mixed than those produced in the modeling of primate visual cortex. Here, we perform a large-scale benchmarking of dozens of deep neural network models in mouse visual cortex with both representational similarity analysis and neural regression. Using the Allen Brain Observatory's 2-photon calcium-imaging dataset of activity in over 6,000 reliable rodent visual cortical neurons recorded in response to natural scenes, we replicate previous findings and resolve previous discrepancies, ultimately demonstrating that modern neural networks can in fact be used to explain activity in the mouse visual cortex to a more reasonable degree than previously suggested. Using our benchmark as an atlas, we offer preliminary answers to overarching questions about levels of analysis (e.g. do models that better predict the representations of individual neurons also predict representational similarity across neural populations?); questions about the properties of models that best predict the visual system overall (e.g. is convolution or category-supervision necessary to better predict neural activity?); and questions about the mapping between biological and artificial representations (e.g. does the information processing hierarchy in deep nets match the anatomical hierarchy of mouse visual cortex?). Along the way, we catalogue a number of models (including vision transformers, MLP-Mixers, normalization free networks, Taskonomy encoders and self-supervised models) outside the traditional circuit of convolutional object recognition. Taken together, our results provide a reference point for future ventures in the deep neural network modeling of mouse visual cortex, hinting at novel combinations of mapping method, architecture, and task to more fully characterize the computational motifs of visual representation in a species so central to neuroscience, but with a perceptual physiology and ecology markedly different from the ones we study in primates.