Divergent representations of ethological visual inputs emerge from supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement learning

3 Dec 2021  ·  Grace W. Lindsay, Josh Merel, Tom Mrsic-Flogel, Maneesh Sahani ·

Artificial neural systems trained using reinforcement, supervised, and unsupervised learning all acquire internal representations of high dimensional input. To what extent these representations depend on the different learning objectives is largely unknown. Here we compare the representations learned by eight different convolutional neural networks, each with identical ResNet architectures and trained on the same family of egocentric images, but embedded within different learning systems. Specifically, the representations are trained to guide action in a compound reinforcement learning task; to predict one or a combination of three task-related targets with supervision; or using one of three different unsupervised objectives. Using representational similarity analysis, we find that the network trained with reinforcement learning differs most from the other networks. Using metrics inspired by the neuroscience literature, we find that the model trained with reinforcement learning has a sparse and high-dimensional representation wherein individual images are represented with very different patterns of neural activity. Further analysis suggests these representations may arise in order to guide long-term behavior and goal-seeking in the RL agent. Finally, we compare the representations learned by the RL agent to neural activity from mouse visual cortex and find it to perform as well or better than other models. Our results provide insights into how the properties of neural representations are influenced by objective functions and can inform transfer learning approaches.

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