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Häusler C, Susemihl A, Nawrot MP (2013) Natural image sequences constrain dynamic receptive fields and imply a sparse code. Brain Research 1536: 53-57 doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2013.07.056

News from Aug 30, 2013

The publications by Chris Häusler, Alex Susemihl and Martin Nawrot shows that animals experience in their natural environment a complex and dynamic visual scenery. Under such natural stimulus conditions, neurons in the visual cortex employ a spatially and temporally sparse code. For the input scenario of natural still images, previous work demonstrated that unsupervised feature learning combined with the constraint of sparse coding can predict physiologically measured receptive fields of simple cells in the primary visual cortex. This convincingly indicated that the mammalian visual system is adapted to the natural spatial input statistics. Here, we extend this approach to the time domain in order to predict dynamic receptive fields that can account for both spatial and temporal sparse activation in biological neurons. We rely on temporal restricted Boltzmann machines and suggest a novel temporal autoencoding training procedure. When tested on a dynamic multi-variate benchmark dataset this method outperformed existing models of this class. Learning features on a large dataset of natural movies allowed us to model spatio-temporal receptive fields for single neurons. They resemble temporally smooth transformations of previously obtained static receptive fields and are thus consistent with existing theories. A neuronal spike response model demonstrates how the dynamic receptive field facilitates temporal and population sparseness. We discuss the potential mechanisms and benefits of a spatially and temporally sparse representation of natural visual input.
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