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Bayesian Modeling of Sensory Cue Combinations


Beierholm, Ulrik Ravnsborg (2007) Bayesian Modeling of Sensory Cue Combinations. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/K89B-XW75.


We are constantly bombarded by sensory input, from multiple sources. How does the human brain process all this information? How does it decide what information to combine and what to keep segregated? If a visual and auditory stimulus originates from the same cause, say a baseball hitting a bat, there are advantages to combining the information to a single percept.

The Bayesian framework is an obvious way to approach this problem. Given sensory input, the optimal observer would try to infer what sources created the stimuli.

We developed a model based on Bayesian principles that makes no assumptions about the type of correlations between sources in the world, and found it in excellent correspondence with experiments on human subjects.

Further, it is possible to place this problem in the more specific frame of causal inference, which has previously only been applied to cognitive problems. Causal inference tries to infer the hidden causal structure from the observables, implying that we constantly are inferring the causal structure of the world surrounding us. This can be thought of as a more constrained approach than our previous model with fewer parameters.

We performed a number of psychophysics experiments and found the subjects’ responses to be in excellent accordance with the model’s predictions. Further predictions from the model, such as independence of the likelihoods and priors, were tested and found to be in accordance with data.

These studies show that human perception is in accordance with Bayesian inference and implies a commonality between perceptual and cognitive processing.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Human perception; Neural computation; Neuroscience
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Computation and Neural Systems
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Quartz, Steven R.
Thesis Committee:
  • Quartz, Steven R. (chair)
  • Winfree, Erik
  • O'Doherty, John P.
  • Shams, Ladan
  • Bossaerts, Peter L.
Defense Date:15 May 2007
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05212007-172639
Persistent URL:
Beierholm, Ulrik Ravnsborg0000-0002-7296-7996
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:1922
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:29 May 2007
Last Modified:11 Feb 2020 21:31

Thesis Files

PDF (beierholm_thesis.pdf) - Final Version
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