The Opponent Channel Population Code of Sound Location Is an Efficient Representation of Natural Binaural Sounds
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In mammalian auditory cortex, sound source position is represented by a population of broadly tuned neurons whose firing is modulated by sounds located at all positions surrounding the animal. Peaks of their tuning curves are concentrated at lateral position, while their slopes are steepest at the interaural midline, allowing for the maximum localization accuracy in that area. These experimental observations contradict initial assumptions that the auditory space is represented as a topographic cortical map. It has been suggested that a “panoramic” code has evolved to match specific demands of the sound localization task. This work provides evidence suggesting that properties of spatial auditory neurons identified experimentally follow from a general design principle- learning a sparse, efficient representation of natural stimuli. Natural binaural sounds were recorded and served as input to a hierarchical sparse-coding model. In the first layer, left and right ear sounds were separately encoded by a population of complex-valued basis functions which separated phase and amplitude. Both parameters are known to carry information relevant for spatial hearing. Monaural input converged in the second layer, which learned a joint representation of amplitude and interaural phase difference. Spatial selectivity of each second-layer unit was measured by exposing the model to natural sound sources recorded at different positions. Obtained tuning curves match well tuning characteristics of neurons in the mammalian auditory cortex. This study connects neuronal coding of the auditory space with natural stimulus statistics and generates new experimental predictions. Moreover, results presented here suggest that cortical regions with seemingly different functions may implement the same computational strategy-efficient coding.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
PLOS Computational Biology
Mlynarski, Wiktor. “The Opponent Channel Population Code of Sound Location Is an Efficient Representation of Natural Binaural Sounds.” Edited by Matthias Bethge. PLoS Comput Biol 11, no. 5 (May 21, 2015): e1004294.
Final published version