Multimodal deep learning model unveils behavioral dynamics of V1 activity in freely moving mice

Aiwen Xu, Yuchen Hou, Cristopher M. Niell, Michael Beyeler 37th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) ‘23


Despite their immense success as a model of macaque visual cortex, deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs) have struggled to predict activity in visual cortex of the mouse, which is thought to be strongly dependent on the animal’s behavioral state. Furthermore, most computational models focus on predicting neural responses to static images presented under head fixation, which are dramatically different from the dynamic, continuous visual stimuli that arise during movement in the real world. Consequently, it is still unknown how natural visual input and different behavioral variables may integrate over time to generate responses in primary visual cortex (V1). To address this, we introduce a multimodal recurrent neural network that integrates gaze-contingent visual input with behavioral and temporal dynamics to explain V1 activity in freely moving mice. We show that the model achieves state-of-the-art predictions of V1 activity during free exploration and demonstrate the importance of each component in an extensive ablation study. Analyzing our model using maximally activating stimuli and saliency maps, we reveal new insights into cortical function, including the prevalence of mixed selectivity for behavioral variables in mouse V1. In summary, our model offers a comprehensive deep-learning framework for exploring the computational principles underlying V1 neurons in freely-moving animals engaged in natural behavior.

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