Haefner Ralf, Matthias Bethge
Many studies have explored the impact of response variability on the quality of sensory codes. The source of this variability is almost always assumed to be intrinsic to the brain. However, when inferring a particular stimulus property, variability associated with other stimulus attributes also effectively act as noise. Here we study the impact of such stimulus-induced response variability for the case of binocular disparity inference. We characterize the response distribution for the binocular energy model in response to random dot stereograms and find it to be very different from the Poisson-like noise usually assumed. We then compute the Fisher information with respect to binocular disparity, present in the monocular inputs to the standard model of early binocular processing, and thereby obtain an upper bound on how much information a model could theoretically extract from them. Then we analyze the information loss incurred by the different ways of combining those inputs to produce a scalar single-neuron response. We find that in the case of depth inference, monocular stimulus variability places a greater limit on the extractable information than intrinsic neuronal noise for typical spike counts. Furthermore, the largest loss of information is incurred by the standard model for position disparity neurons (tuned-excitatory), that are the most ubiquitous in monkey primary visual cortex, while more information from the inputs is preserved in phase-disparity neurons (tuned-near or tuned-far) primarily found in higher cortical regions.