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Michele Svanera, Andrew T. Morgan, Lucy S. Petro, Lars Muckli; A self-supervised deep neural network for image completion resembles early visual cortex fMRI activity patterns for occluded scenes. Journal of Vision 2021;21(7):5. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.7.5.
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The promise of artificial intelligence in understanding biological vision relies on the comparison of computational models with brain data with the goal of capturing functional principles of visual information processing. Convolutional neural networks (CNN) have successfully matched the transformations in hierarchical processing occurring along the brain’s feedforward visual pathway, extending into ventral temporal cortex. However, we are still to learn if CNNs can successfully describe feedback processes in early visual cortex. Here, we investigated similarities between human early visual cortex and a CNN with encoder/decoder architecture, trained with self-supervised learning to fill occlusions and reconstruct an unseen image. Using representational similarity analysis (RSA), we compared 3T functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from a nonstimulated patch of early visual cortex in human participants viewing partially occluded images, with the different CNN layer activations from the same images. Results show that our self-supervised image-completion network outperforms a classical object-recognition supervised network (VGG16) in terms of similarity to fMRI data. This work provides additional evidence that optimal models of the visual system might come from less feedforward architectures trained with less supervision. We also find that CNN decoder pathway activations are more similar to brain processing compared to encoder activations, suggesting an integration of mid- and low/middle-level features in early visual cortex. Challenging an artificial intelligence model to learn natural image representations via self-supervised learning and comparing them with brain data can help us to constrain our understanding of information processing, such as neuronal predictive coding.
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