Top-Down Generation of Low-Resolution Representations Improves Visual Perception and Imagination

Zedong Bi, Liang Tian

Research output: Working paperPreprint


Perception or imagination requires top-down signals from high-level cortex to primary visual cortex (V1) to reconstruct or simulate the representations bottom-up stimulated by the seen images. Interestingly, top-down signals in V1 have lower spatial resolution than bottom-up representations. It is unclear why the brain uses low-resolution signals to reconstruct or simulate high-resolution representations. By modeling the top-down pathway of the visual system using the decoder of variational auto-encoder (VAE), we reveal that low-resolution top-down signals can better reconstruct or simulate the information contained in the sparse activities of V1 simple cells, which facilitates perception and imagination. This advantage of low-resolution generation is related to facilitating high-level cortex to form geometry-respecting representations observed in experiments. Moreover, our finding inspires a simple artificial-intelligence (AI) technique to significantly improve the generation quality and diversity of sketches, a style of drawings made of thin lines. Specifically, instead of directly using original sketches, we use blurred sketches to train VAE or GAN (generative adversarial network), and then infer the thin-line sketches from the VAE- or GAN-generated blurred sketches. Collectively, our work suggests that low-resolution top-down generation is a strategy the brain uses to improve visual perception and imagination, and advances sketch-generation AI techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages56
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2023

User-Defined Keywords

  • generative model
  • visual system
  • sketch generation


Dive into the research topics of 'Top-Down Generation of Low-Resolution Representations Improves Visual Perception and Imagination'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this