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Behavior and neural basis of near-optimal visual search

Ma, Wei Ji and Navalpakkam, Vidhya and Beck, Jeffrey M. and van den Berg, Ronald and Pouget, Alexander (2011) Behavior and neural basis of near-optimal visual search. Nature Neuroscience, 14 (6). pp. 783-790. ISSN 1097-6256.

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The ability to search efficiently for a target in a cluttered environment is one of the most remarkable functions of the nervous system. This task is difficult under natural circumstances, as the reliability of sensory information can vary greatly across space and time and is typically a priori unknown to the observer. In contrast, visual-search experiments commonly use stimuli of equal and known reliability. In a target detection task, we randomly assigned high or low reliability to each item on a trial-by-trial basis. An optimal observer would weight the observations by their trial-to-trial reliability and combine them using a specific nonlinear integration rule. We found that humans were near-optimal, regardless of whether distractors were homogeneous or heterogeneous and whether reliability was manipulated through contrast or shape. We present a neural-network implementation of near-optimal visual search based on probabilistic population coding. The network matched human performance.

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Additional Information:© 2011 Nature Publishing Group. Received 06 January 2011. Accepted 10 March 2011. Published online 08 May 2011. W.J.M. is supported by award R01EY020958 from the National Eye Institute. V.N. is supported by National Science Foundation grant #0820582. J.M.B. is supported by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and R.v.d.B. by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). A.P. is supported by Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grant N00014-07-1-0937, National Institute on Drug Abuse grant #BCS0346785, a research grant from the James S. McDonnell Foundation and award P30EY001319 from the National Eye Institute. Author Contributions: W.J.M., V.N. and R.v.d.B. designed the experiments. V.N. and R.v.d.B. collected the data. W.J.M., V.N. and R.v.d.B. analyzed the data. W.J.M., J.B. and A.P. developed the theory. J.B. performed the network simulations. W.J.M. and A.P. wrote the manuscript. V.N., J.B. and R.v.d.B. contributed to the writing of the manuscript.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
National Eye InstituteR01EY020958
Gatsby Charitable FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)UNSPECIFIED
Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI)N00014-07-1-0937
National Institute on Drug AbuseBCS0346785
James S. McDonnell FoundationUNSPECIFIED
National Eye InstituteP30EY001319
Issue or Number:6
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20110614-075918308
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Official Citation:Behavior and neural basis of near-optimal visual search - pp783 - 790 Wei Ji Ma, Vidhya Navalpakkam, Jeffrey M Beck, Ronald van den Berg & Alexandre Pouget doi:10.1038/nn.2814
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:23996
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:14 Jun 2011 15:25
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 02:52

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