Surround Modulation: A Bio-inspired Connectivity Structure for Convolutional Neural Networks

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Hosein Hasani, Mahdieh Soleymani, Hamid Aghajan


Numerous neurophysiological studies have revealed that a large number of the primary visual cortex neurons operate in a regime called surround modulation. Surround modulation has a substantial effect on various perceptual tasks, and it also plays a crucial role in the efficient neural coding of the visual cortex. Inspired by the notion of surround modulation, we designed new excitatory-inhibitory connections between a unit and its surrounding units in the convolutional neural network (CNN) to achieve a more biologically plausible network. Our experiments show that this simple mechanism can considerably improve both the performance and training speed of traditional CNNs in visual tasks. We further explore additional outcomes of the proposed structure. We first evaluate the model under several visual challenges, such as the presence of clutter or change in lighting conditions and show its superior generalization capability in handling these challenging situations. We then study possible changes in the statistics of neural activities such as sparsity and decorrelation and provide further insight into the underlying efficiencies of surround modulation. Experimental results show that importing surround modulation into the convolutional layers ensues various effects analogous to those derived by surround modulation in the visual cortex.