Expansion and contraction of resource allocation in sensory bottlenecks


Topographic sensory representations often do not scale proportionally to the size of their input regions, with some expanded and others contracted. In vision, the foveal representation is magnified cortically, as are the fingertips in touch. What principles drive this allocation, and how should receptor density, e.g. the high innervation of the fovea or the fingertips, and stimulus statistics, e.g. the higher contact frequencies on the fingertips, contribute? Building on work in efficient coding, we address this problem using linear second-order models that maximize information transmission through decorrelation. We introduce a sensory bottleneck to impose constraints on resource allocation and derive the optimal neural allocation. We find that bottleneck width is a crucial factor in resource allocation, inducing either expansion or contraction. Both receptor density and stimulus statistics affect allocation and jointly determine convergence for wider bottlenecks. Furthermore, we show a close match between the predicted and empirical cortical allocations in a well-studied model system, the star-nosed mole. Overall, our results suggest that the strength of cortical magnification depends on resource limits.

In bioRxiv