Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track
Eric Wu, Nora Brackbill, Alexander Sher, Alan Litke, Eero Simoncelli, E.J. Chichilnisky
Visual information arriving at the retina is transmitted to the brain by signals in the optic nerve, and the brain must rely solely on these signals to make inferences about the visual world. Previous work has probed the content of these signals by directly reconstructing images from retinal activity using linear regression or nonlinear regression with neural networks. Maximum a posteriori (MAP) reconstruction using retinal encoding models and separately-trained natural image priors offers a more general and principled approach. We develop a novel method for approximate MAP reconstruction that combines a generalized linear model for retinal responses to light, including their dependence on spike history and spikes of neighboring cells, with the image prior implicitly embedded in a deep convolutional neural network trained for image denoising. We use this method to reconstruct natural images from ex vivo simultaneously-recorded spikes of hundreds of retinal ganglion cells uniformly sampling a region of the retina. The method produces reconstructions that match or exceed the state-of-the-art in perceptual similarity and exhibit additional fine detail, while using substantially fewer model parameters than previous approaches. The use of more rudimentary encoding models (a linear-nonlinear-Poisson cascade) or image priors (a 1/f spectral model) significantly reduces reconstruction performance, indicating the essential role of both components in achieving high-quality reconstructed images from the retinal signal.