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Modelling low-dimensional dynamics in recorded spiking populations


Macke,  JH
Research Group Computational Vision and Neuroscience, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;
Department Empirical Inference, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society;

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Macke, J., Büsing L, Cunningham JP, Yu BM, Shenoy, K., & Sahani, M. (2011). Modelling low-dimensional dynamics in recorded spiking populations. Poster presented at Computational and Systems Neuroscience Meeting (COSYNE 2011), Salt Lake City, UT, USA.

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Neural population activity reflects not only variations in stimulus drive ( captured by many neural encoding models) but also the rich computational dynamics of recurrent neural circuitry. Identifying this dynamical structure, and relating it to external stimuli and behavioural events, is a crucial step towards understanding neural computation. One data-driven approach is to fit hidden low-dimensional dynamical systems models to the high-dimensional spiking observations collected by microelectrode arrays (Yu et al, 2006, 2009). This approach yields low-dimensional representations of population-activity, allowing analysis and visualization of population dynamics with single trial resolution. Here, we compare two models using latent linear dynamics, with the dependence of spiking observations on the dynamical state being either linear with Gaussian observations (GaussLDS), or generalised linear with Poisson observations and an exponential nonlinearity (PoissonLDS) (Kulkarni Paninski, 2007). Both models were fit by Expectation-Maximisation to multi-electrode recordings from pre-motor cortex in behaving monkeys during the delay-period of a delayed reach task. We evaluated the accuracy of different approximations for the E-step necessary for PoissonLDS using elliptical slice sampling. We quantified model-performance using a cross-prediction approach (Yu et al). Although only the Poisson noise model takes the discrete nature of spiking into account, we found no consistent improvement of the Poisson-model over GaussLDS: PoissonLDS was generally more accurate for low dimensions, but slightly under-performed GaussLDS in higher dimensions (cf. Lawhern et al. 2010). We also examined the ability of such models to capture conventional population metrics such as pairwise correlations and the distribution of synchronous spikes counts. We found that both models were able to reproduce these quantities with very low dynamical dimension, although the non-positivity of the Gaussian model introduced a bias. Thus, despite its verisimilitude, the Poisson observation model does not always yield more accurate predictions in real data.