Let’s admit it: brains are not computers. Indeed, computers are still deceptive compared to biological perceptual systems. Think about rapidly detecting a novel object in clutter. Think about performing this with little supervision at a low energetic cost…
To narrow the gap between neuroscience and the theory of sensory processing computations, I am interested in bridging geometrical regularities found in natural scenes with the properties of neural computations as they are observed in sensory processes or behavior.
Laurent Perrinet is a computational neuroscientist specialized in large scale neural network models of low-level vision, perception and action, currently at the “Institut de Neurosciences de la Timone” (France), a joint research unit (CNRS / Aix-Marseille Université). He co-authored more than 40 articles in computational neuroscience and computer vision. He graduated from the aeronautics engineering school SUPAERO, in Toulouse (France) with a signal processing and applied mathematics degree. He received a PhD in Cognitive Science in 2003 on the mathematical analysis of temporal spike coding of images by using a multi-scale and adaptive representation of natural scenes. His research program is focusing in bridging the complex dynamics of realistic, large-scale models of spiking neurons with functional models of low-level vision. In particular, as part of the FACETS and BrainScaleS consortia, he has developed experimental protocols in collaboration with neurophysiologists to characterize the response of population of neurons. Recently, he extended models of visual processing in the framework of predictive processing in collaboration with the team of Karl Friston at the University College of London. This method aims at characterizing the processing of dynamical flow of information as an active inference process. His current challenge within the NeOpTo team is to translate, or compile in computer terminology, this mathematical formalism with the event-based nature of neural information with the aim of pushing forward the frontiers of Artificial Intelligence systems.
Habilitation à diriger des recherches, 2014
PhD. in Cognitive Science, 2003
Université P. Sabatier, Toulouse, France
M.S. in Engineering, 1998
SupAéro, Toulouse, France
The primary visual cortex (V1) processes complex mixtures of orientations to build neural representations of our visual environment. It remains unclear how V1 adapts to the highly volatile distributions of orientations found in natural images. We used naturalistic stimuli and measured the response of V1 neurons to orientation distributions of varying bandwidth. Although broad distributions decreased single neuron tuning, a neurally plausible decoder could robustly retrieve the orientations of stimuli from the population activity at all bandwidths. This decoder demonstrates that V1 population co-encodes orientation and its precision, which enhances population decoding performances. This internal representation is mediated by temporally distinct neural dynamics and supports a precision-weighted description of neuronal message passing in the visual cortex.
Both neurophysiological and psychophysical experiments have pointed out the crucial role of recurrent and feedback connections to process context-dependent information in the early visual cortex. While numerous models have accounted for feedback effects at either neural or representational level, none of them were able to bind those two levels of analysis. Is it possible to describe feedback effects at both levels using the same model? We answer this question by combining Predictive Coding (PC) and Sparse Coding (SC) into a hierarchical and convolutional framework. In this Sparse Deep Predictive Coding (SDPC) model, the SC component models the internal recurrent processing within each layer, and the PC component describes the interactions between layers using feedforward and feedback connections. Here, we train a 2-layered SDPC on two different databases of images, and we interpret it as a model of the early visual system (V1~&~V2). We first demonstrate that once the training has converged, SDPC exhibits oriented and localized receptive fields in V1 and more complex features in V2. Second, we analyze the effects of feedback on the neural organization beyond the classical receptive field of V1 neurons using interaction maps. These maps are similar to association fields and reflect the Gestalt principle of good continuation. We demonstrate that feedback signals reorganize interaction maps and modulate neural activity to promote contour integration. Third, we demonstrate at the representational level that the SDPC feedback connections are able to overcome noise in input images. Therefore, the SDPC captures the association field principle at the neural level which results in better disambiguation of blurred images at the representational level.
Humans are able to accurately track a moving object with a combination of saccades and smooth eye movements. These movements allow us to align and stabilize the object on the fovea, thus enabling highresolution visual analysis. When predictive information is available about target motion, anticipatory smooth pursuit eye movements (aSPEM) are efficiently generated before target appearance, which reduce the typical sensorimotor delay between target motion onset and foveation. It is generally assumed that the role of anticipatory eye movements is to limit the behavioral impairment due to eyetotarget position and velocity mismatch. By manipulating the probability for target motion direction we were able to bias the direction and mean velocity of aSPEM, as measured during a fixed duration gap before target rampmotion onset. This suggests that probabilistic information may be used to inform the internal representation of motion prediction for the initiation of anticipatory movements. However, such estimate may become particularly challenging in a dynamic context, where the probabilistic contingencies vary in time in an unpredictable way. In addition, whether and how the information processing underlying the buildup of aSPEM is linked to an explicit estimate of probabilities is unknown. We developed a new paired* task paradigm in order to address these two questions. In a first session, participants observe a target moving horizontally with constant speed from the center either to the right or left across trials. The probability of either motion direction changes randomly in time. Participants are asked to estimate "how much they are confident that the target will move to the right or left in the next trial" and to adjust the cursor’s position on the screen accordingly. In a second session the participants eye movements are recorded during the observation of the same sequence of randomdirection trials. In parallel, we are developing new automatic routines for the advanced analysis of oculomotor traces. In order to extract the relevant parameters of the oculomotor responses (latency, gain, initial acceleration, catchup saccades), we developed new tools based on best*fitting procedure of predefined patterns (i.e. the typical smooth pursuit velocity profile).
Due to its inherent neural delays, the visual system has an outdated access to sensory information about the current position of moving objects. In contrast, living organisms are remarkably able to track and intercept moving objects under a large range of challenging environmental conditions. Physiological, behavioral and psychophysical evidences strongly suggest that position coding is extrapolated using an explicit and reliable representation of object’s motion but it is still unclear how these two representations interact. For instance, the so-called flash-lag effect supports the idea of a differential processing of position between moving and static objects. Although elucidating such mechanisms is crucial in our understanding of the dynamics of visual processing, a theory is still missing to explain the different facets of this visual illusion. Here, we reconsider several of the key aspects of the flash-lag effect in order to explore the role of motion upon neural coding of objects’ position. First, we formalize the problem using a Bayesian modeling framework which includes a graded representation of the degree of belief about visual motion. We introduce a motion-based prediction model as a candidate explanation for the perception of coherent motion. By including the knowledge of a fixed delay, we can model the dynamics of sensory information integration by extrapolating the information acquired at previous instants in time. Next, we simulate the optimal estimation of object position with and without delay compensation and compared it with human perception under a broad range of different psychophysical conditions. Our computational study suggests that the explicit, probabilistic representation of velocity information is crucial in explaining position coding, and therefore the flash-lag effect. We discuss these theoretical results in light of the putative corrective mechanisms that can be used to cancel out the detrimental effects of neural delays and illuminate the more general question of the dynamical representation of spatial information at the present time in the visual pathways.
As the state-of-the-art imaging technologies became more and more advanced, yielding scientific data at unprecedented detail and volume, the need to process and interpret all the data has made image processing and computer vision also increasingly important. Sources of data that have to be routinely dealt with today applications include video transmission, wireless communication, automatic fingerprint processing, massive databases, non-weary and accurate automatic airport screening, robust night vision to name a few. Multidisciplinary inputs from other disciplines such as computational neuroscience, cognitive science, mathematics, physics and biology will have a fundamental impact in the progress of imaging and vision sciences. One of the advantages of the study of biological organisms is to devise very different type of computational paradigms beyond the usual von Neumann e.g. by implementing a neural network with a high degree of local connectivity. This is a comprehensive and rigorous reference in the area of biologically motivated vision sensors. The study of biologically visual systems can be considered as a two way avenue. On the one hand, biological organisms can provide a source of inspiration for new computational efficient and robust vision models and on the other hand machine vision approaches can provide new insights for understanding biological visual systems. Along the different chapters, this book covers a wide range of topics from fundamental to more specialized topics, including visual analysis based on a computational level, hardware implementation, and the design of new more advanced vision sensors. The last two sections of the book provide an overview of a few representative applications and current state of the art of the research in this area. This makes it a valuable book for graduate, Master, PhD students and also researchers in the field.
Making a judgment about the semantic category of a visual scene, such as whether it contains an animal, is typically assumed to involve high-level associative brain areas. Previous explanations require progressively analyzing the scene hierarchically at increasing levels of abstraction, from edge extraction to mid-level object recognition and then object categorization. Here we show that the statistics of edge co-occurrences alone are sufficient to perform a rough yet robust (translation, scale, and rotation invariant) scene categorization. We first extracted the edges from images using a scale-space analysis coupled with a sparse coding algorithm. We then computed the ``association field’’ for different categories (natural, man-made, or containing an animal) by computing the statistics of edge co-occurrences. These differed strongly, with animal images having more curved configurations. We show that this geometry alone is sufficient for categorization, and that the pattern of errors made by humans is consistent with this procedure. Because these statistics could be measured as early as the primary visual cortex, the results challenge widely held assumptions about the flow of computations in the visual system. The results also suggest new algorithms for image classification and signal processing that exploit correlations between low-level structure and the underlying semantic category.
Moving objects generate motion information at different scales, which are processed in the visual system with a bank of spatiotemporal frequency channels. It is not known how the brain pools this information to reconstruct object speed and whether this pooling is generic or adaptive; that is, dependent on the behavioral task. We used rich textured motion stimuli of varying bandwidths to decipher how the human visual motion system computes object speed in different behavioral contexts. We found that, although a simple visuomotor behavior such as short-latency ocular following responses takes advantage of the full distribution of motion signals, perceptual speed discrimination is impaired for stimuli with large bandwidths. Such opposite dependencies can be explained by an adaptive gain control mechanism in which the divisive normalization pool is adjusted to meet the different constraints of perception and action.
If perception corresponds to hypothesis testing (Gregory, 1980); then visual searches might be construed as experiments that generate sensory data. In this work, we explore the idea that saccadic eye movements are optimal experiments, in which data are gathered to test hypotheses or beliefs about how those data are caused. This provides a plausible model of visual search that can be motivated from the basic principles of self-organized behavior: namely, the imperative to minimize the entropy of hidden states of the world and their sensory consequences. This imperative is met if agents sample hidden states of the world efficiently. This efficient sampling of salient information can be derived in a fairly straightforward way, using approximate Bayesian inference and variational free-energy minimization. Simulations of the resulting active inference scheme reproduce sequential eye movements that are reminiscent of empirically observed saccades and provide some counterintuitive insights into the way that sensory evidence is accumulated or assimilated into beliefs about the world.
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