How well do deep neural networks trained on object recognition characterize the mouse visual system?

Recent work on modeling neural responses in the primate visual system has benefited from deep neural networks trained on large-scale object recognition, and found a hierarchical correspondence between layers of the artificial neural network and brain areas along the ventral visual stream. However, we neither know whether such task-optimized networks enable equally good models of the rodent visual system, nor if a similar hierarchical correspondence exists. Here, we address these questions in the mouse visual system by extracting features at several layers of a convolutional neural network (CNN) trained on ImageNet to predict the responses of thousands of neurons in four visual areas (V1, LM, AL, RL) to natural images. We found that the CNN features outperform classical subunit energy models, but found no evidence for an order of the areas we recorded via a correspondence to the hierarchy of CNN layers. Moreover, the same CNN but with random weights provided an equivalently useful feature space for predicting neural responses. Our results suggest that object recognition as a high-level task does not provide more discriminative features to characterize the mouse visual system than a random network. Unlike in the primate, training on ethologically relevant visually guided behaviors -- beyond static object recognition -- may be needed to unveil the functional organization of the mouse visual cortex.

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