Learning low-dimensional generalizable natural features from retina using a U-net

Siwei Wang, Benjamin Hoshal, Elizabeth A. de Laittre, Olivier Marre, Michael J. Berry, Stephanie E. Palmer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


Much of sensory neuroscience focuses on presenting stimuli that are chosen by the experimenter because they are parametric and easy to sample and are thought to be behaviorally relevant to the organism. However, it is not generally known what these relevant features are in complex, natural scenes. This work focuses on using the retinal encoding of natural movies to determine the presumably behaviorally-relevant features that the brain represents. It is prohibitive to parameterize a natural movie and its respective retinal encoding fully. We use time within a natural movie as a proxy for the whole suite of features evolving across the scene. We then use a task-agnostic deep architecture, an encoder-decoder, to model the retinal encoding process and characterize its representation of “time in the natural scene” in a compressed latent space. In our end-to-end training, an encoder learns a compressed latent representation from a large population of salamander retinal ganglion cells responding to natural movies, while a decoder samples from this compressed latent space to generate the appropriate future movie frame. By comparing latent representations of retinal activity from three movies, we find that the retina has a generalizable encoding for time in the natural scene: the precise, low-dimensional representation of time learned from one movie can be used to represent time in a different movie, with up to 17 ms resolution. We then show that static textures and velocity features of a natural movie are synergistic. The retina simultaneously encodes both to establishes a generalizable, low-dimensional representation of time in the natural scene.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 - 36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
EditorsS. Koyejo, S. Mohamed, A. Agarwal, D. Belgrave, K. Cho, A. Oh
PublisherNeural information processing systems foundation
ISBN (Electronic)9781713871088
StatePublished - 2022
Event36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022 - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Nov 28 2022Dec 9 2022

Publication series

NameAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
ISSN (Print)1049-5258


Conference36th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Signal Processing


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