Estimating Nonlinear Neural Response Functions using GP Priors and Kronecker Methods

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 29 (NIPS 2016)

Bibtex Metadata Paper Reviews Supplemental


Cristina Savin, Gasper Tkacik


Jointly characterizing neural responses in terms of several external variables promises novel insights into circuit function, but remains computationally prohibitive in practice. Here we use gaussian process (GP) priors and exploit recent advances in fast GP inference and learning based on Kronecker methods, to efficiently estimate multidimensional nonlinear tuning functions. Our estimator require considerably less data than traditional methods and further provides principled uncertainty estimates. We apply these tools to hippocampal recordings during open field exploration and use them to characterize the joint dependence of CA1 responses on the position of the animal and several other variables, including the animal's speed, direction of motion, and network oscillations.Our results provide an unprecedentedly detailed quantification of the tuning of hippocampal neurons. The model's generality suggests that our approach can be used to estimate neural response properties in other brain regions.