Designing neurophysiology experiments to optimally constrain receptive field models along parametric submanifolds

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 21 (NIPS 2008)

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Jeremy Lewi, Robert Butera, David Schneider, Sarah Woolley, Liam Paninski


Sequential optimal design methods hold great promise for improving the efficiency of neurophysiology experiments. However, previous methods for optimal experimental design have incorporated only weak prior information about the underlying neural system (e.g., the sparseness or smoothness of the receptive field). Here we describe how to use stronger prior information, in the form of parametric models of the receptive field, in order to construct optimal stimuli and further improve the efficiency of our experiments. For example, if we believe that the receptive field is well-approximated by a Gabor function, then our method constructs stimuli that optimally constrain the Gabor parameters (orientation, spatial frequency, etc.) using as few experimental trials as possible. More generally, we may believe a priori that the receptive field lies near a known sub-manifold of the full parameter space; in this case, our method chooses stimuli in order to reduce the uncertainty along the tangent space of this sub-manifold as rapidly as possible. Applications to simulated and real data indicate that these methods may in many cases improve the experimental efficiency.