A neural network implementing optimal state estimation based on dynamic spike train decoding

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

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Omer Bobrowski, Ron Meir, Shy Shoham, Yonina Eldar


It is becoming increasingly evident that organisms acting in uncertain dynamical environments often employ exact or approximate Bayesian statistical calculations in order to continuously estimate the environmental state, integrate information from multiple sensory modalities, form predictions and choose actions. What is less clear is how these putative computations are implemented by cortical neural networks. An additional level of complexity is introduced because these networks observe the world through spike trains received from primary sensory afferents, rather than directly. A recent line of research has described mechanisms by which such computations can be implemented using a network of neurons whose activ- ity directly represents a probability distribution across the possible “world states”. Much of this work, however, uses various approximations, which severely re- strict the domain of applicability of these implementations. Here we make use of rigorous mathematical results from the theory of continuous time point process filtering, and show how optimal real-time state estimation and prediction may be implemented in a general setting using linear neural networks. We demonstrate the applicability of the approach with several examples, and relate the required network properties to the statistical nature of the environment, thereby quantify- ing the compatibility of a given network with its environment.