Aligning Model and Macaque Inferior Temporal Cortex Representations Improves Model-to-Human Behavioral Alignment and Adversarial Robustness



Published on




While some state-of-the-art artificial neural network systems in computer vision are strikingly accurate models of the corresponding primate visual processing, there are still many discrepancies between these models and the behavior of primates on object recognition tasks. Many current models suffer from extreme sensitivity to adversarial attacks and often do not align well with the image-by-image behavioral error patterns observed in humans. Previous research has provided strong evidence that primate object recognition behavior can be very accurately predicted by neural population activity in the inferior temporal (IT) cortex, a brain area in the late stages of the visual processing hierarchy. Therefore, here we directly test whether making the late stage representations of models more similar to that of macaque IT produces new models that exhibit more robust, primate-like behavior. We collected a dataset of chronic, large-scale multi-electrode recordings across the IT cortex in six non-human primates (rhesus macaques). We then use these data to fine-tune (end-to-end) the model “IT” representations such that they are more aligned with the biological IT representations, while preserving accuracy on object recognition tasks. We generate a cohort of models with a range of IT similarity scores validated on held-out animals across two image sets with distinct statistics. Across a battery of optimization conditions, we observed a strong correlation between the models’ ITlikeness and alignment with human behavior, as well as an increase in its adversarial robustness. We further assessed the limitations of this approach and find that the improvements in behavioral alignment and adversarial robustness generalize across different image statistics, but not to object categories outside of those covered in our IT training set. Taken together, our results demonstrate that building models that are more aligned with the primate brain leads to more robust and human-like behavior, and call for larger neural data-sets to further augment these gains. Code, models, and data are available at

Please cite our work using the BibTeX below.

title={Aligning Model and Macaque Inferior Temporal Cortex Representations Improves Model-to-Human Behavioral Alignment and Adversarial Robustness},
author={Joel Dapello and Kohitij Kar and Martin Schrimpf and Robert Baldwin Geary and Michael Ferguson and David Daniel Cox and James J. DiCarlo},
booktitle={The Eleventh International Conference on Learning Representations },
Close Modal