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Efficient coding of spectrotemporal binaural sounds leads to emergence of the auditory space representation
To date a number of studies have shown that receptive field shapes of early sensory neurons can be reproduced by optimizing coding efficiency of natural stimulus ensembles. A still unresolved question is whether the efficient coding hypothesis explains formation of neurons which explicitly represent environmental features of different functional importance.
This paper proposes that the spatial selectivity of higher auditory neurons emerges as a direct consequence of learning efficient codes for natural binaural sounds. Firstly, it is demonstrated that a linear efficient coding transform - Independent Component Analysis (ICA) trained on spectrograms of naturalistic simulated binaural sounds extracts spatial information present in the signal. A simple hierarchical ICA extension allowing for decoding of sound position is proposed. Furthermore, it is shown that units revealing spatial selectivity can be learned from a binaural recording of a natural auditory scene. In both cases a relatively small subpopulation of learned spectrogram features suffices to perform accurate sound localization. Representation of the auditory space is therefore learned in a purely unsupervised way by maximizing the coding efficiency and without any task-specific constraints.
This results imply that efficient coding is a useful strategy for learning structures which allow for making behaviorally vital inferences about the environment.