Are sparse-coding simple cell receptive field models physiologically plausible?

Paul A. Watters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Olshausen and Field (1996) developed a simple cell receptive field model for natural scene processing in V1, based on unsupervised learning and non-orthogonal basis function optimization of an overcomplete representation of visual space. The model was originally tested with an ensemble of whitened natural scenes, simulating pre-cortical filtering in the retinal ganglia and lateral geniculate nucleus, and the basis functions qualitatively resembled the orientation-specific responses of V1 simple cells in the spatial domain. In this study, the quantitative tuning responses of the basis functions in the spectral domain are estimated using a Gaussian model, to determine their goodness-of-fit to the known bandwidths of simple cells in primate V1. Five simulation experiments which examined key features of the model are reported: changing the size of the basis functions; using a complete versus over-complete representation; changing the sparseness factor; using a variable learning rate; and mapping the basis functions with a whitening spatial function. The key finding of this study is that across all image themes, basis function sizes, number of basis functions, sparseness factors and learning rates, the spatial-frequency tuning did not closely resemble that of primate area 17 — the model results more closely resembled the unclassified cat neurones of area 19 with a single exception, and not area 17 as predicted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-353
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of integrative neuroscience
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • natural scenes
  • basis functions
  • simple cells
  • sparse coding

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