Prune and Distill: Similar reformatting of image information along rat visual cortex and deep neural networks

Nov 28, 2022



Visual object recognition has been extensively studied in both neuroscience and computer vision. Recently, the most popular class of artificial systems for this task, deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs), has been shown to provide excellent models for its functional analogue in the brain, the ventral stream in visual cortex. This has prompted questions on what, if any, are the common principles underlying the reformatting of visual information as it flows through a CNN or the ventral stream. Here we consider some prominent statistical patterns that are known to exist in the internal representations of either CNNs or the visual cortex and look for them in the other system. We show that intrinsic dimensionality (ID) of object representations along the rat homologue of the ventral stream presents two distinct expansion-contraction phases, as previously shown for CNNs. Conversely, in CNNs, we show that training results in both distillation and active pruning (mirroring the increase in ID) of low- to middle-level image information in single units, as representations gain the ability to support invariant discrimination, in agreement with previous observations in rat visual cortex. Taken together, our findings suggest that CNNs and visual cortex share a similarly tight relationship between dimensionality expansion/reduction of object representations and reformatting of image information.


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