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Accurate estimation of neural population dynamics without spike sorting

By Eric M. Trautmann, Sergey D. Stavisky, Subhaneil Lahiri, Katherine C. Ames, Matthew T. Kaufman, Stephen I. Ryu, Surya Ganguli, Krishna V. Shenoy

Posted 05 Dec 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/229252 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.05.003)

A central goal of systems neuroscience is to relate an organism's neural activity to behavior. Neural population analysis often begins by reducing the dimensionality of the data to focus on the patterns most relevant to a given task. A major practical hurdle to data analysis is spike sorting, and this problem is growing rapidly as the number of neurons measured increases. Here, we investigate whether spike sorting is necessary to estimate neural dynamics. The theory of random projections suggests that we can accurately estimate the geometry of low-dimensional manifolds from a small number of linear projections of the data. We re-analyzed data from three previous studies and found that neural dynamics and scientific conclusions are quite similar using multi-unit threshold crossings in place of sorted neurons. This finding unlocks existing data for new analyses and informs the design and use of new electrode arrays for laboratory and clinical use.

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