Fast Active Set Methods for Online Spike Inference from Calcium Imaging

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

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Johannes Friedrich, Liam Paninski


Fluorescent calcium indicators are a popular means for observing the spiking activity of large neuronal populations. Unfortunately, extracting the spike train of each neuron from raw fluorescence calcium imaging data is a nontrivial problem. We present a fast online active set method to solve this sparse nonnegative deconvolution problem. Importantly, the algorithm progresses through each time series sequentially from beginning to end, thus enabling real-time online spike inference during the imaging session. Our algorithm is a generalization of the pool adjacent violators algorithm (PAVA) for isotonic regression and inherits its linear-time computational complexity. We gain remarkable increases in processing speed: more than one order of magnitude compared to currently employed state of the art convex solvers relying on interior point methods. Our method can exploit warm starts; therefore optimizing model hyperparameters only requires a handful of passes through the data. The algorithm enables real-time simultaneous deconvolution of $O(10^5)$ traces of whole-brain zebrafish imaging data on a laptop.