Using spike train distances to identify the most discriminative neuronal subpopulation

Eero Satuvuori, Mario Mulansky, Andreas Daffertshofer, Thomas Kreuz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Spike trains of multiple neurons can be analyzed following the summed population (SP) or the labeled line (LL) hypothesis. Responses to external stimuli are generated by a neuronal population as a whole or the individual neurons have encoding capacities of their own. The SPIKE-distance estimated either for a single, pooled spike train over a population or for each neuron separately can serve to quantify these responses. New method: For the SP case we compare three algorithms that search for the most discriminative subpopulation over all stimulus pairs. For the LL case we introduce a new algorithm that combines neurons that individually separate different pairs of stimuli best. Results: The best approach for SP is a brute force search over all possible subpopulations. However, it is only feasible for small populations. For more realistic settings, simulated annealing clearly outperforms gradient algorithms with only a limited increase in computational load. Our novel LL approach can handle very involved coding scenarios despite its computational ease. Comparison with existing methods: Spike train distances have been extended to the analysis of neural populations interpolating between SP and LL coding. This includes parametrizing the importance of distinguishing spikes being fired in different neurons. Yet, these approaches only consider the population as a whole. The explicit focus on subpopulations render our algorithms complimentary. Conclusions: The spectrum of encoding possibilities in neural populations is broad. The SP and LL cases are two extremes for which our algorithms provide correct identification results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-365
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Early online date10 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Labeled line
  • Neuronal population coding
  • Simulated annealing
  • Spike train distances
  • Summed population


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