March 2021, Vol. 33, No. 3, Pages 764-801
© 2021 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Statistical Analysis of Decoding Performances of Diverse Populations of Neurons
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A central theme in computational neuroscience is determining the neural correlates of efficient and accurate coding of sensory signals. Diversity, or heterogeneity, of intrinsic neural attributes is known to exist in many brain areas and is thought to significantly affect neural coding. Recent theoretical and experimental work has argued that in uncoupled networks, coding is most accurate at intermediate levels of heterogeneity. Here we consider this question with data from in vivo recordings of neurons in the electrosensory system of weakly electric fish subject to the same realization of noisy stimuli; we use a generalized linear model (GLM) to assess the accuracy of (Bayesian) decoding of stimulus given a population spiking response. The long recordings enable us to consider many uncoupled networks and a relatively wide range of heterogeneity, as well as many instances of the stimuli, thus enabling us to address this question with statistical power. The GLM decoding is performed on a single long time series of data to mimic realistic conditions rather than using trial-averaged data for better model fits. For a variety of fixed network sizes, we generally find that the optimal levels of heterogeneity are at intermediate values, and this holds in all core components of GLM. These results are robust to several measures of decoding performance, including the absolute value of the error, error weighted by the uncertainty of the estimated stimulus, and the correlation between the actual and estimated stimulus. Although a quadratic fit to decoding performance as a function of heterogeneity is statistically significant, the result is highly variable with low
values. Taken together, intermediate levels of neural heterogeneity are indeed a prominent attribute for efficient coding even within a single time series, but the performance is highly variable.