Classification and Geometry of General Perceptual Manifolds

Sueyeon Chung, Daniel D. Lee, Haim Sompolinsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Perceptual manifolds arise when a neural population responds to an ensemble of sensory signals associated with different physical features (e.g., orientation, pose, scale, location, and intensity) of the same perceptual object. Object recognition and discrimination require classifying the manifolds in a manner that is insensitive to variability within a manifold. How neuronal systems give rise to invariant object classification and recognition is a fundamental problem in brain theory as well as in machine learning. Here, we study the ability of a readout network to classify objects from their perceptual manifold representations. We develop a statistical mechanical theory for the linear classification of manifolds with arbitrary geometry, revealing a remarkable relation to the mathematics of conic decomposition. We show how special anchor points on the manifolds can be used to define novel geometrical measures of radius and dimension, which can explain the classification capacity for manifolds of various geometries. The general theory is demonstrated on a number of representative manifolds, including ℓ2 ellipsoids prototypical of strictly convex manifolds, ℓ1 balls representing polytopes with finite samples, and ring manifolds exhibiting nonconvex continuous structures that arise from modulating a continuous degree of freedom. The effects of label sparsity on the classification capacity of general manifolds are elucidated, displaying a universal scaling relation between label sparsity and the manifold radius. Theoretical predictions are corroborated by numerical simulations using recently developed algorithms to compute maximum margin solutions for manifold dichotomies. Our theory and its extensions provide a powerful and rich framework for applying statistical mechanics of linear classification to data arising from perceptual neuronal responses as well as to artificial deep networks trained for object recognition tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number031003
JournalPhysical Review X
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 5 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


Dive into the research topics of 'Classification and Geometry of General Perceptual Manifolds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this