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Extracting Latent Structure From Multiple Interacting Neural Populations

Neural Information Processing Systems

Developments in neural recording technology are rapidly enabling the recording of populations of neurons in multiple brain areas simultaneously, as well as the identification of the types of neurons being recorded (e.g., excitatory vs. inhibitory). There is a growing need for statistical methods to study the interaction among multiple, labeled populations of neurons. Rather than attempting to identify direct interactions between neurons (where the number of interactions grows with the number of neurons squared), we propose to extract a smaller number of latent variables from each population and study how the latent variables interact. Specifically, we propose extensions to probabilistic canonical correlation analysis (pCCA) to capture the temporal structure of the latent variables, as well as to distinguish within-population dynamics from across-population interactions (termed Group Latent Auto-Regressive Analysis, gLARA). We then applied these methods to populations of neurons recorded simultaneously in visual areas V1 and V2, and found that gLARA provides a better description of the recordings than pCCA. This work provides a foundation for studying how multiple populations of neurons interact and how this interaction supports brain function.


Analyzing biological and artificial neural networks: challenges with opportunities for synergy?

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence

Deep neural networks (DNNs) transform stimuli across multiple processing stages to produce representations that can be used to solve complex tasks, such as object recognition in images. However, a full understanding of how they achieve this remains elusive. The complexity of biological neural networks substantially exceeds the complexity of DNNs, making it even more challenging to understand the representations that they learn. Thus, both machine learning and computational neuroscience are faced with a shared challenge: how can we analyze their representations in order to understand how they solve complex tasks? We review how data-analysis concepts and techniques developed by computational neuroscientists can be useful for analyzing representations in DNNs, and in turn, how recently developed techniques for analysis of DNNs can be useful for understanding representations in biological neural networks. We explore opportunities for synergy between the two fields, such as the use of DNNs as in-silico model systems for neuroscience, and how this synergy can lead to new hypotheses about the operating principles of biological neural networks.


Model-based targeted dimensionality reduction for neuronal population data

Neural Information Processing Systems

Summarizing high-dimensional data using a small number of parameters is a ubiquitous first step in the analysis of neuronal population activity. Recently developed methods use "targeted" approaches that work by identifying multiple, distinct low-dimensional subspaces of activity that capture the population response to individual experimental task variables, such as the value of a presented stimulus or the behavior of the animal. These methods have gained attention because they decompose total neural activity into what are ostensibly different parts of a neuronal computation. However, existing targeted methods have been developed outside of the confines of probabilistic modeling, making some aspects of the procedures ad hoc, or limited in flexibility or interpretability. Here we propose a new model-based method for targeted dimensionality reduction based on a probabilistic generative model of the population response data. The low-dimensional structure of our model is expressed as a low-rank factorization of a linear regression model. We perform efficient inference using a combination of expectation maximization and direct maximization of the marginal likelihood. We also develop an efficient method for estimating the dimensionality of each subspace. We show that our approach outperforms alternative methods in both mean squared error of the parameter estimates, and in identifying the correct dimensionality of encoding using simulated data. We also show that our method provides more accurate inference of low-dimensional subspaces of activity than a competing algorithm, demixed PCA.


Model-based targeted dimensionality reduction for neuronal population data

Neural Information Processing Systems

Summarizing high-dimensional data using a small number of parameters is a ubiquitous first step in the analysis of neuronal population activity. Recently developed methods use "targeted" approaches that work by identifying multiple, distinct low-dimensional subspaces of activity that capture the population response to individual experimental task variables, such as the value of a presented stimulus or the behavior of the animal. These methods have gained attention because they decompose total neural activity into what are ostensibly different parts of a neuronal computation. However, existing targeted methods have been developed outside of the confines of probabilistic modeling, making some aspects of the procedures ad hoc, or limited in flexibility or interpretability. Here we propose a new model-based method for targeted dimensionality reduction based on a probabilistic generative model of the population response data. The low-dimensional structure of our model is expressed as a low-rank factorization of a linear regression model. We perform efficient inference using a combination of expectation maximization and direct maximization of the marginal likelihood. We also develop an efficient method for estimating the dimensionality of each subspace. We show that our approach outperforms alternative methods in both mean squared error of the parameter estimates, and in identifying the correct dimensionality of encoding using simulated data. We also show that our method provides more accurate inference of low-dimensional subspaces of activity than a competing algorithm, demixed PCA.


Low-Rank Nonlinear Decoding of $\mu$-ECoG from the Primary Auditory Cortex

arXiv.org Machine Learning

This paper considers the problem of neural decoding from parallel neural measurements systems such as micro-electrocorticography ($\mu$-ECoG). In systems with large numbers of array elements at very high sampling rates, the dimension of the raw measurement data may be large. Learning neural decoders for this high-dimensional data can be challenging, particularly when the number of training samples is limited. To address this challenge, this work presents a novel neural network decoder with a low-rank structure in the first hidden layer. The low-rank constraints dramatically reduce the number of parameters in the decoder while still enabling a rich class of nonlinear decoder maps. The low-rank decoder is illustrated on $\mu$-ECoG data from the primary auditory cortex (A1) of awake rats. This decoding problem is particularly challenging due to the complexity of neural responses in the auditory cortex and the presence of confounding signals in awake animals. It is shown that the proposed low-rank decoder significantly outperforms models using standard dimensionality reduction techniques such as principal component analysis (PCA).