A characteristic feature of vertebrate sensory cortex (and midbrain) is the existence of multiple two-dimensional map representations. Some workers have considered single-map classification (e.g. Kohonen 1984) but little work has focused on the use of multiple maps. We have constructed a multiple-map classifier, which permits abstraction of the computational properties of a multiple-map architecture. We identify three problems which characterize a multiple-map classifier: classification in two dimensions, mapping from high dimensions to two dimensions, and combination of multiple maps. We demonstrate component solutions to each of the problems, using Parzen-window density estimation in two dimensions, a generalized Fisher discriminant function for dimensionality reduction, and split/merge methods to construct a “tree of maps” for the multiple-map representation. The combination of components is modular and each component could be improved or replaced without affecting the other components. The classifier training procedure requires time linear in the number of training examples; classification time is independent of the number of training examples and requires constant space. Performance of this classifier on Fisher's iris data, Gaussian clusters on a five-dimensional simplex, and digitized speech data is comparable to competing algorithms, such as nearest-neighbor, back-propagation and Gaussian classifiers. This work provides an example of the computational utility of multiple-map representations for classification. It is one step towards the goal of understanding why brain areas such as visual cortex utilize multiple map-like representations of the world.

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