A Unified, Scalable Framework for Neural Population Decoding

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper


Mehdi Azabou, Vinam Arora, Venkataramana Ganesh, Ximeng Mao, Santosh Nachimuthu, Michael Mendelson, Blake Richards, Matthew Perich, Guillaume Lajoie, Eva Dyer


Our ability to use deep learning approaches to decipher neural activity would likely benefit from greater scale, in terms of both the model size and the datasets. However, the integration of many neural recordings into one unified model is challenging, as each recording contains the activity of different neurons from different individual animals. In this paper, we introduce a training framework and architecture designed to model the population dynamics of neural activity across diverse, large-scale neural recordings. Our method first tokenizes individual spikes within the dataset to build an efficient representation of neural events that captures the fine temporal structure of neural activity. We then employ cross-attention and a PerceiverIO backbone to further construct a latent tokenization of neural population activities. Utilizing this architecture and training framework, we construct a large-scale multi-session model trained on large datasets from seven nonhuman primates, spanning over 158 different sessions of recording from over 27,373 neural units and over 100 hours of recordings. In a number of different tasks, we demonstrate that our pretrained model can be rapidly adapted to new, unseen sessions with unspecified neuron correspondence, enabling few-shot performance with minimal labels. This work presents a powerful new approach for building deep learning tools to analyze neural data and stakes out a clear path to training at scale for neural decoding models.