Edges are the 'Independent Components' of Natural Scenes.

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 9 (NIPS 1996)

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Anthony Bell, Terrence J. Sejnowski


Field (1994) has suggested that neurons with line and edge selectivities found in primary visual cortex of cats and monkeys form a sparse, dis(cid:173) tributed representation of natural scenes, and Barlow (1989) has reasoned that such responses should emerge from an unsupervised learning algorithm that attempts to find a factorial code of independent visual features. We show here that non-linear 'infomax', when applied to an ensemble of nat(cid:173) ural scenes, produces sets of visual filters that are localised and oriented. Some of these filters are Gabor-like and resemble those produced by the sparseness-maximisation network of Olshausen & Field (1996). In addition, the outputs of these filters are as independent as possible, since the info(cid:173) max network is able to perform Independent Components Analysis (ICA). We compare the resulting ICA filters and their associated basis functions, with other decorrelating filters produced by Principal Components Analysis (PCA) and zero-phase whitening filters (ZCA). The ICA filters have more sparsely distributed (kurtotic) outputs on natural scenes. They also resem(cid:173) ble the receptive fields of simple cells in visual cortex, which suggests that these neurons form an information-theoretic co-ordinate system for images.