Modeling Neural Population Spiking Activity with Gibbs Distributions

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 18 (NIPS 2005)

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Frank Wood, Stefan Roth, Michael Black


Probabilistic modeling of correlated neural population firing activity is central to understanding the neural code and building practical decoding algorithms. No parametric models currently exist for modeling multivariate correlated neural data and the high dimensional nature of the data makes fully non-parametric methods impractical. To address these problems we propose an energy-based model in which the joint probability of neural activity is represented using learned functions of the 1D marginal histograms of the data. The parameters of the model are learned using contrastive divergence and an optimization procedure for finding appropriate marginal directions. We evaluate the method using real data recorded from a population of motor cortical neurons. In particular, we model the joint probability of population spiking times and 2D hand position and show that the likelihood of test data under our model is significantly higher than under other models. These results suggest that our model captures correlations in the firing activity. Our rich probabilistic model of neural population activity is a step towards both measurement of the importance of correlations in neural coding and improved decoding of population activity.