Learning sparse codes from compressed representations with biologically plausible local wiring constraints

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Kion Fallah, Adam Willats, Ninghao Liu, Christopher Rozell


Sparse coding is an important method for unsupervised learning of task-independent features in theoretical neuroscience models of neural coding. While a number of algorithms exist to learn these representations from the statistics of a dataset, they largely ignore the information bottlenecks present in fiber pathways connecting cortical areas. For example, the visual pathway has many fewer neurons transmitting visual information to cortex than the number of photoreceptors. Both empirical and analytic results have recently shown that sparse representations can be learned effectively after performing dimensionality reduction with randomized linear operators, producing latent coefficients that preserve information. Unfortunately,current proposals for sparse coding in the compressed space require a centralized compression process (i.e., dense random matrix) that is biologically unrealistic due to local wiring constraints observed in neural circuits. The main contribution of this paper is to leverage recent results on structured random matrices to propose a theoretical neuroscience model of randomized projections for communication between cortical areas that is consistent with the local wiring constraints observed in neuroanatomy. We show analytically and empirically that unsupervised learning of sparse representations can be performed in the compressed space despite significant local wiring constraints in compression matrices of varying forms (corresponding to different local wiring patterns). Our analysis verifies that even with significant local wiring constraints, the learned representations remain qualitatively similar,have similar quantitative performance in both training and generalization error, and are consistent across many measures with measured macaque V1 receptive fields.