Keywords: computational neuroscience, primate vision, deep neural networks, generalization, linear decoding, domain transfer, neuroai
TL;DR: We find that primate IT neurons with a linear decoder generalize better to novel image distributions than ANN units
Abstract: Humans are successfully able to recognize objects in a variety of image distributions. Today's artificial neural networks (ANNs), on the other hand, struggle to recognize objects in many image domains, especially those different from the training distribution. It is currently unclear which parts of the ANNs could be improved in order to close this generalization gap. In this work, we used recordings from primate high-level visual cortex (IT) to isolate whether ANNs lag behind primate generalization capabilities because of their encoder (transformations up to the penultimate layer), or their decoder (linear transformation into class labels). Specifically, we fit a linear decoder on images from one domain and evaluate transfer performance on twelve held-out domains, comparing fitting on primate IT representations vs. representations in ANN penultimate layers. To fairly compare, we scale the number of each ANN's units so that its in-domain performance matches that of the sampled IT population (i.e. 71 IT neural sites, 73% binary-choice accuracy). We find that the sampled primate population achieves, on average, 68% performance on the held-out-domains. Comparably sampled populations from ANN model units generalize less well, maintaining on average 60%. This is independent of the number of sampled units: models' out-of-domain accuracies consistently lag behind primate IT. These results suggest that making ANN model units more like primate IT will improve the generalization performance of ANNs.