Bayesian inference for low rank spatiotemporal neural receptive fields

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 26 (NIPS 2013)

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Mijung Park, Jonathan W. Pillow


The receptive field (RF) of a sensory neuron describes how the neuron integrates sensory stimuli over time and space. In typical experiments with naturalistic or flickering spatiotemporal stimuli, RFs are very high-dimensional, due to the large number of coefficients needed to specify an integration profile across time and space. Estimating these coefficients from small amounts of data poses a variety of challenging statistical and computational problems. Here we address these challenges by developing Bayesian reduced rank regression methods for RF estimation. This corresponds to modeling the RF as a sum of several space-time separable (i.e., rank-1) filters, which proves accurate even for neurons with strongly oriented space-time RFs. This approach substantially reduces the number of parameters needed to specify the RF, from 1K-100K down to mere 100s in the examples we consider, and confers substantial benefits in statistical power and computational efficiency. In particular, we introduce a novel prior over low-rank RFs using the restriction of a matrix normal prior to the manifold of low-rank matrices. We then use a localized'' prior over row and column covariances to obtain sparse, smooth, localized estimates of the spatial and temporal RF components. We develop two methods for inference in the resulting hierarchical model: (1) a fully Bayesian method using blocked-Gibbs sampling; and (2) a fast, approximate method that employs alternating coordinate ascent of the conditional marginal likelihood. We develop these methods under Gaussian and Poisson noise models, and show that low-rank estimates substantially outperform full rank estimates in accuracy and speed using neural data from retina and V1."