Equivariant representation is necessary for the brain and artificial perceptual systems to faithfully represent the stimulus under some (Lie) group transformations. However, it remains unknown how recurrent neural circuits in the brain represent the stimulus equivariantly, nor the neural representation of abstract group operators. The present study uses a one-dimensional (1D) translation group as an example to explore the general recurrent neural circuit mechanism of the equivariant stimulus representation. We found that a continuous attractor network (CAN), a canonical neural circuit model, self-consistently generates a continuous family of stationary population responses (attractors) that represents the stimulus equivariantly. Inspired by the Drosophila’s compass circuit, we found that the 1D translation operators can be represented by extra speed neurons besides the CAN, where speed neurons’ responses represent the moving speed (1D translation group parameter), and their feedback connections to the CAN represent the translation generator (Lie algebra). We demonstrated that the network responses are consistent with experimental data. Our model for the first time demonstrates how recurrent neural circuitry in the brain achieves equivariant stimulus representation.
Wenhao Zhang is an assistant professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center studying computational neuroscience. A distinguished feature of his studies is that it tightly combines normative theories and biologically plausible neural circuit models to study the principles of neural information processing in the brain. And his research has been published in both high-profile neuroscience journals as well as leading machine learning conferences.