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System Identification of Neural Systems: If We Got It Right, Would We Know?

Yena Han · Tomaso A Poggio · Brian Cheung

Exhibit Hall 1 #612


Artificial neural networks are being proposed as models of parts of the brain. The networks are compared to recordings of biological neurons, and good performance in reproducing neural responses is considered to support the model's validity. A key question is how much this system identification approach tells us about brain computation. Does it validate one model architecture over another? We evaluate the most commonly used comparison techniques, such as a linear encoding model and centered kernel alignment, to correctly identify a model by replacing brain recordings with known ground truth models. System identification performance is quite variable; it also depends significantly on factors independent of the ground truth architecture, such as stimuli images. In addition, we show the limitations of using functional similarity scores in identifying higher-level architectural motifs.

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