Learning receptive field properties of complex cells in V1

PLoS Comput Biol. 2021 Mar 2;17(3):e1007957. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007957. eCollection 2021 Mar.


There are two distinct classes of cells in the primary visual cortex (V1): simple cells and complex cells. One defining feature of complex cells is their spatial phase invariance; they respond strongly to oriented grating stimuli with a preferred orientation but with a wide range of spatial phases. A classical model of complete spatial phase invariance in complex cells is the energy model, in which the responses are the sum of the squared outputs of two linear spatially phase-shifted filters. However, recent experimental studies have shown that complex cells have a diverse range of spatial phase invariance and only a subset can be characterized by the energy model. While several models have been proposed to explain how complex cells could learn to be selective to orientation but invariant to spatial phase, most existing models overlook many biologically important details. We propose a biologically plausible model for complex cells that learns to pool inputs from simple cells based on the presentation of natural scene stimuli. The model is a three-layer network with rate-based neurons that describes the activities of LGN cells (layer 1), V1 simple cells (layer 2), and V1 complex cells (layer 3). The first two layers implement a recently proposed simple cell model that is biologically plausible and accounts for many experimental phenomena. The neural dynamics of the complex cells is modeled as the integration of simple cells inputs along with response normalization. Connections between LGN and simple cells are learned using Hebbian and anti-Hebbian plasticity. Connections between simple and complex cells are learned using a modified version of the Bienenstock, Cooper, and Munro (BCM) rule. Our results demonstrate that the learning rule can describe a diversity of complex cells, similar to those observed experimentally.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication
  • Geniculate Bodies / cytology
  • Geniculate Bodies / physiology
  • Learning*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*

Grant support

This work received funding from the Australian Government, via the Australian Research Council Discovery Projects Scheme (Project DP140102947) and the grant AUSMURIB000001 associated with ONR MURI grant N00014-19-1-2571. HM acknowledges funding from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function (CE140100007). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.