Thursday, March 8, 2012, 3pm
Innovation 223

Stephanie E. Palmer
Department of Physics
Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics
Princeton University

Predicting the Future: What the Eye Computes About the Visual Scene

Prediction is important for almost all modes of human and animal behavior.  Our research focuses on how a population of neurons implements predictive computations.  We have examined how groups of retinal ganglion cells, the output neurons of the retina, encode predictive information in their collective firing patterns. Put simply, we are asking how well the firing of the retina "now" specifies the firing of the retina in the future.  We find substantial predictive information in groups of retinal ganglion cells.  When we combine small groups of neurons, the predictive information not only grows but displays significant synergy, meaning that the population response pattern carries more information than the sum of its parts.  We investigate strategies by which the brain might read out this predictive information downstream.  To test what role the retina plays in shaping this predictive computation, we calculate the information the retinal population carries about the future of the stimulus.  Preliminary evidence suggests that the way in which the retina compresses information about past stimuli is optimized for preserving information about the future of the visual input.