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The influence of behavioral context on sensory encoding

BMC Neuroscience
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1186/1471-2202-12-s1-p295
  • Poster Presentation


The influence of behavioral context on sensory encoding POSTER PRESENTATION Open Access The influence of behavioral context on sensory encoding Matthew Chalk*, Iain Murray, Peggy Seriès From Twentieth Annual Computational Neuroscience Meeting: CNS*2011 Stockholm, Sweden. 23-28 July 2011 The properties of sensory neurons are not fixed, but change dynamically according to the task being per- formed [1]. While there has been a huge experimental effort put into characterizing these effects, a clear understanding of why they occur is lacking. A large body of research focuses on the idea that the visual system learns a probabilistic model of natural image statistics. Typically, the goal of the visual system is seen as inferring the hidden causes underlying a given sensory input [2]. While this framework is successful in helping to understand the properties of neurons in the early sensory cortex, it presents a passive view of learn- ing: the sensory representation is optimized indepen- dently of behavioral demands. We propose an alternative normative framework for modeling visual processing, with the representation opti- mized adaptively in order to facilitate interaction with the environment [3,4]. This framework is used to ask the following questions: (1) under what conditions should behavioral context influence the responses of sensory neurons; (2) what are the expected changes in receptive field properties? We simulate a visual detection task where an agent is presented with stimuli at various locations, and has to report whether or not a stimulus is present at a single task-relevant location. Stimuli are represented by binary latent variables (each variable corresponding to a different spatial location), which combine linearly to produce the sensory input. The task is thus to infer the state of a single task-relevant latent variable based on the sensory input: correct responses result in an immediate reward. In performing the task, the agent is assumed to follow a strategy

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