August 2023
Volume 23, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2023
Behavioral and neural evidence that the visual system performs approximate inference in a hierarchical generative model
Author Affiliations
  • Ralf Haefner
    University of Rochester
Journal of Vision August 2023, Vol.23, 4661. doi:
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      Ralf Haefner; Behavioral and neural evidence that the visual system performs approximate inference in a hierarchical generative model. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):4661.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

  • Supplements

Whether visual processing in cortex is best modeled as Bayesian inference using a generative model, or a discriminative model, is an important open question (DiCarlo et al. 2021, CCN/GAC). A critical clue to answering this question lies in the functional role of the ubiquitous feedback connections in cortex (Felleman & Van Essen 1991). Inference in a hierarchical generative framework suggests that their role is to communicate top-down expectations (Lee & Mumford 2003). I will present recent behavioral and neurophysiological results that are compatible with this hypothesis; results that are difficult to explain in the context of alternative hypotheses about the role of feedback signals, attention or learning. Our behavioral results in the context of a classic discrimination task strongly suggest that expectations are communicated from decision-related areas to sensory areas on a time scale of 10s to 100s of milliseconds. In the context of classic evidence integration tasks, this feedback leads to a perceptual confirmation bias that is measurable as both a primacy effect (Lange et al. 2021) and overconfidence (Chattoraj et al. 2021). Importantly, the strength of this bias depends on the nature of the sensory inputs in a way that is predicted by approximate hierarchical inference, and that can explain a range of seemingly contradictory findings about the nature of temporal biases. Finally, I will present empirical evidence for a surprising neural signature of feedback-related expectation signals, namely that they induce information-limiting correlations between sensory neurons, again as predicted from approximate hierarchical inference (Lange et al. 2022).


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