The optimal spatial arrangement of ON and OFF receptive fields

Journal Article

Many sensory systems utilize parallel ON and OFF pathways that signal stimulus increments and decrements, respectively. These pathways consist of ensembles or grids of ON and OFF detectors spanning sensory space. Yet encoding by opponent pathways raises a question: How should grids of ON and OFF detectors be arranged to optimally encode natural stimuli? We investigated this question using a model of the retina guided by efficient coding theory. Specifically, we optimized spatial receptive fields and contrast response functions to encode natural images given noise and constrained firing rates. We find that the optimal arrangement of ON and OFF receptive fields exhibits a transition between aligned and anti-aligned grids. The preferred phase depends on detector noise and the statistical structure of the natural stimuli. These results reveal that noise and stimulus statistics produce qualitative shifts in neural coding strategies and provide novel theoretical predictions for the configuration of opponent pathways in the nervous system.

Significance Statement

Across a wide variety of species, cells in the retina specialized for signaling either increases (ON) or decreases (OFF) in light represent one of the most basic building blocks of visual computation. These cells coordinate to form mosaics, with each cell responsible for a small, minimally-overlapping portion of visual space, but the ways in which these mosaics could be spatially coordinated with each other are relatively unknown. Here, we show how efficient coding theory, which hypothesizes that the nervous system minimizes the amount of redundant information it encodes, can predict the relative spatial arrangement of ON and OFF mosaics. The most information-efficient arrangements are determined both by levels of noise in the system and the statistics of natural images.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Jun, NY; Field, G; Pearson, J

Published Date

  • March 11, 2021

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1101/2021.03.10.434612