May 9, 2021

Emergent organization of multiple visuotopic maps without a feature hierarchy

The primate visual system is comprised of multiple visual areas. Despite their foundational relevance, there are no normative accounts for why there are multiple areas nor why they have their signature "mirrored map" topography. Here I show that the stereotyped cortical organization of multiple mirrored areas naturally emerges in simulated cortex, in which self-organizing processes are used to map a multi-scale representation of visual space smoothly onto a two-dimensional cortical sheet. Predominant accounts of multiple areas emphasize hierarchical processing, where each area extends and elaborates on the previous areas’ representation. Here, no explicit hierarchical relationships were required to manifest this multi-areal organization, suggesting that feature hierarchies may be the derived rather than the driving force of this organization. This modeling work thus provides a simple computational explanation for the hallmark features of early visual topography, and the presence of multiple areas, as emergent from a single functional goal–to smoothly represent the visual field at multiple spatial scales.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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