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Markus R. Ernst, Thomas Burwick, Jochen Triesch; Recurrent processing improves occluded object recognition and gives rise to perceptual hysteresis. Journal of Vision 2021;21(13):6. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.21.13.6.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Over the past decades, object recognition has been predominantly studied and modelled as a feedforward process. This notion was supported by the fast response times in psychophysical and neurophysiological experiments and the recent success of deep feedforward neural networks for object recognition. Recently, however, this prevalent view has shifted and recurrent connectivity in the brain is now believed to contribute significantly to object recognition — especially under challenging conditions, including the recognition of partially occluded objects. Moreover, recurrent dynamics might be the key to understanding perceptual phenomena such as perceptual hysteresis. In this work we investigate if and how artificial neural networks can benefit from recurrent connections. We systematically compare architectures comprised of bottom-up, lateral, and top-down connections. To evaluate the impact of recurrent connections for occluded object recognition, we introduce three stereoscopic occluded object datasets, which span the range from classifying partially occluded hand-written digits to recognizing three-dimensional objects. We find that recurrent architectures perform significantly better than parameter-matched feedforward models. An analysis of the hidden representation of the models suggests that occluders are progressively discounted in later time steps of processing. We demonstrate that feedback can correct the initial misclassifications over time and that the recurrent dynamics lead to perceptual hysteresis. Overall, our results emphasize the importance of recurrent feedback for object recognition in difficult situations.
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