Neural characterization in partially observed populations of spiking neurons

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 20 (NIPS 2007)

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Jonathan Pillow, Peter Latham


Point process encoding models provide powerful statistical methods for under- standing the responses of neurons to sensory stimuli. Although these models have been successfully applied to neurons in the early sensory pathway, they have fared less well capturing the response properties of neurons in deeper brain areas, ow- ing in part to the fact that they do not take into account multiple stages of pro- cessing. Here we introduce a new twist on the point-process modeling approach: we include unobserved as well as observed spiking neurons in a joint encoding model. The resulting model exhibits richer dynamics and more highly nonlinear response properties, making it more powerful and more flexible for fitting neural data. More importantly, it allows us to estimate connectivity patterns among neu- rons (both observed and unobserved), and may provide insight into how networks process sensory input. We formulate the estimation procedure using variational EM and the wake-sleep algorithm, and illustrate the model’s performance using a simulated example network consisting of two coupled neurons.