Analyzing Auditory Neurons by Learning Distance Functions

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 18 (NIPS 2005)

Bibtex Metadata Paper


Inna Weiner, Tomer Hertz, Israel Nelken, Daphna Weinshall


We present a novel approach to the characterization of complex sensory neurons. One of the main goals of characterizing sensory neurons is to characterize dimensions in stimulus space to which the neurons are highly sensitive (causing large gradients in the neural responses) or al- ternatively dimensions in stimulus space to which the neuronal response are invariant (defining iso-response manifolds). We formulate this prob- lem as that of learning a geometry on stimulus space that is compatible with the neural responses: the distance between stimuli should be large when the responses they evoke are very different, and small when the re- sponses they evoke are similar. Here we show how to successfully train such distance functions using rather limited amount of information. The data consisted of the responses of neurons in primary auditory cortex (A1) of anesthetized cats to 32 stimuli derived from natural sounds. For each neuron, a subset of all pairs of stimuli was selected such that the responses of the two stimuli in a pair were either very similar or very dissimilar. The distance function was trained to fit these constraints. The resulting distance functions generalized to predict the distances between the responses of a test stimulus and the trained stimuli.