A method for decoding the neurophysiological spike-response transform

Estee Stern, Keyla García-Crescioni, Mark W. Miller, Charles S. Peskin, Vladimir Brezina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many physiological responses elicited by neuronal spikes-intracellular calcium transients, synaptic potentials, muscle contractions-are built up of discrete, elementary responses to each spike. However, the spikes occur in trains of arbitrary temporal complexity, and each elementary response not only sums with previous ones, but can itself be modified by the previous history of the activity. A basic goal in system identification is to characterize the spike-response transform in terms of a small number of functions-the elementary response kernel and additional kernels or functions that describe the dependence on previous history-that will predict the response to any arbitrary spike train. Here we do this by developing further and generalizing the "synaptic decoding" approach of Sen et al. (1996). Given the spike times in a train and the observed overall response, we use least-squares minimization to construct the best estimated response and at the same time best estimates of the elementary response kernel and the other functions that characterize the spike-response transform. We avoid the need for any specific initial assumptions about these functions by using techniques of mathematical analysis and linear algebra that allow us to solve simultaneously for all of the numerical function values treated as independent parameters. The functions are such that they may be interpreted mechanistically. We examine the performance of the method as applied to synthetic data. We then use the method to decode real synaptic and muscle contraction transforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-356
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Nov 15 2009


  • Mathematical modeling
  • Motor control
  • Neuromuscular
  • Neurophysiological input-output transform
  • Nonlinear system identification
  • Spike trains
  • Synaptic plasticity
  • Synaptic transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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