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
Our daily endeavors occur in a complex visual environment, whose intrinsic variability challenges the way we integrate information to make decisions. By processing myriads of parallel sensory inputs, our brain is theoretically able to compute the variance of its environment, a cue known to guide our behavior. Yet, the neurobiological and computational basis of such variance computations are still poorly understood. Here, we quantify the dynamics of sensory variance modulations of cat primary visual cortex neurons. We report two archetypal neuronal responses, one of which is resilient to changes in variance and co-encodes the sensory feature and its variance, improving the population encoding of orientation. The existence of these variance-specific responses can be accounted for by a model of intracortical recurrent connectivity. We thus propose that local recurrent circuits process uncertainty as a generic computation, advancing our understanding of how the brain handles naturalistic inputs.
Why do neurons communicate through spikes? By definition, spikes are all-or-none neural events which occur at continuous times. In other words, spikes are on one side binary, existing or not without further details, and on the other can occur at any asynchronous time, without the need for a centralized clock. This stands in stark contrast to the analog representation of values and the discretized timing classically used in digital processing and at the base of modern-day neural networks. As neural systems almost systematically use this so-called event-based representation in the living world, a better understanding of this phenomenon remains a fundamental challenge in neurobiology in order to better interpret the profusion of recorded data. With the growing need for intelligent embedded systems, it also emerges as a new computing paradigm to enable the efficient operation of a new class of sensors and event-based computers, called neuromorphic, which could enable significant gains in computation time and energy consumption, a major societal issue in the era of the digital economy and global warming. In this review paper, we provide evidence from biology, theory and engineering that the precise timing of spikes plays a crucial role in our understanding of the efficiency of neural networks.
Neurons in the primary visual cortex are selective to orientation with various degrees of selectivity to the spatial phase, from high selectivity in simple cells to low selectivity in complex cells. Various computational models have suggested a possible link between the presence of phase invariant cells and the existence of cortical orientation maps in higher mammals’ V1. These models, however, do not explain the emergence of complex cells in animals that do not show orientation maps. In this study, we build a model of V1 based on a convolutional network called Sparse Deep Predictive Coding (SDPC) and show that a single computational mechanism, pooling, allows the SDPC model to account for the emergence of complex cells as well as cortical orientation maps in V1, as observed in distinct species of mammals. By using different pooling functions, our model developed complex cells in networks that exhibit orientation maps (e.g., like in carnivores and primates) or not (e.g., rodents and lagomorphs). The SDPC can therefore be viewed as a unifying framework that explains the diversity of structural and functional phenomena observed in V1. In particular, we show that orientation maps emerge naturally as the most cost-efficient structure to generate complex cells under the predictive coding principle.
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.
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.
Computational Neuroscience, Spiking Neural Networks, Machine Learning, Vision
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