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Adaptation of Sensory Systems to the Properties of their Natural Input


Kayser,  C
Research Group Physiology of Sensory Integration, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Physiology of Cognitive Processes, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Kayser, C. (2006). Adaptation of Sensory Systems to the Properties of their Natural Input. Poster presented at 9th Tübingen Perception Conference (TWK 2006), Tübingen, Germany.

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Our sensory systems perform pretty successful and fast in processing the complex scenarios of sensory stimuli that we encounter during every day tasks. It seems likely that over evolutionary timescales our senses adapted to the statistical regularities inherent to the every day stimuli that we have to analyze. This leads to the hypothesis that various aspects of sensory processing are ‘optimal’ for extracting information from natural input; vice versa, one should be able to understand the organization of sensory processing given the statistical regularities of natural stimuli and given the right optimization principle. In this talk I will address this question by examining the processing of single neurons in the primary visual cortex, so called simple and complex cells. Recent work showed how the processing of these cells can be understood as efficient and redundancy reducing codes of natural visual features—called sparse and slow feature codes. Especially, by applying these optimality principles to artificial networks processing natural visual scenes, properties of simple and complex cells can be reproduced. Besides vision, other senses perform similar analysis of complex stimuli, posing the question whether different senses can be understood using similar functional principles. Using audition as an example, it can be shown that the same optimality principles deduced from the visual cortex do a good job in explaining the processing of auditory neurons. This suggests that, on a more abstract level, different sensory systems perform similar operations that are defined by certain optimality criteria and the statistical properties of natural sensory stimuli. Especially, the early sensory processing in different sensory systems seems to be based on a small set of common computational principles that links properties of the outside world to properties of neuronal circuits.