Bypassing spike sorting: Density-based decoding using spike localization from dense multielectrode probes

The International Brain Laboratory

    Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


    Neural decoding and its applications to brain computer interfaces (BCI) are essential for understanding the association between neural activity and behavior. A prerequisite for many decoding approaches is spike sorting, the assignment of action potentials (spikes) to individual neurons. Current spike sorting algorithms, however, can be inaccurate and do not properly model uncertainty of spike assignments, therefore discarding information that could potentially improve decoding performance. Recent advances in high-density probes (e.g., Neuropixels) and computational methods now allow for extracting a rich set of spike features from unsorted data; these features can in turn be used to directly decode behavioral correlates. To this end, we propose a spike sorting-free decoding method that directly models the distribution of extracted spike features using a mixture of Gaussians (MoG) encoding the uncertainty of spike assignments, without aiming to solve the spike clustering problem explicitly. We allow the mixing proportion of the MoG to change over time in response to the behavior and develop variational inference methods to fit the resulting model and to perform decoding. We benchmark our method with an extensive suite of recordings from different animals and probe geometries, demonstrating that our proposed decoder can consistently outperform current methods based on thresholding (i.e. multi-unit activity) and spike sorting. Open source code is available at

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    JournalAdvances in Neural Information Processing Systems
    StatePublished - 2023
    Event37th Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems, NeurIPS 2023 - New Orleans, United States
    Duration: Dec 10 2023Dec 16 2023

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Computer Networks and Communications
    • Information Systems
    • Signal Processing


    Dive into the research topics of 'Bypassing spike sorting: Density-based decoding using spike localization from dense multielectrode probes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this