Biljana Petreska, Byron M. Yu, John P. Cunningham, Gopal Santhanam, Stephen Ryu, Krishna V. Shenoy, Maneesh Sahani
Simultaneous recordings of many neurons embedded within a recurrently-connected cortical network may provide concurrent views into the dynamical processes of that network, and thus its computational function. In principle, these dynamics might be identified by purely unsupervised, statistical means. Here, we show that a Hidden Switching Linear Dynamical Systems (HSLDS) model---in which multiple linear dynamical laws approximate a nonlinear and potentially non-stationary dynamical process---is able to distinguish different dynamical regimes within single-trial motor cortical activity associated with the preparation and initiation of hand movements. The regimes are identified without reference to behavioural or experimental epochs, but nonetheless transitions between them correlate strongly with external events whose timing may vary from trial to trial. The HSLDS model also performs better than recent comparable models in predicting the firing rate of an isolated neuron based on the firing rates of others, suggesting that it captures more of the "shared variance" of the data. Thus, the method is able to trace the dynamical processes underlying the coordinated evolution of network activity in a way that appears to reflect its computational role.