Inferring Neural Firing Rates from Spike Trains Using Gaussian Processes
John P. Cunningham1, Byron M. Yu1, Maneesh Sahani2, and Krishna V. Shenoy1
1Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 2Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, University College London

Neural signals present challenges to analytical efforts due to their noisy, spiking nature. Many studies of neuroscientific and neural prosthetic importance rely on a smoothed, denoised neural signal considered to be the spike train's underlying firing rate. Current techniques to find time varying firing rates require ad hoc choices of parameters, offer no confidence intervals on their estimates, and can obscure potentially important single trial variability. We present a new method, based on a Gaussian Process prior, for inferring probabilistically optimal estimates of firing rate functions underlying single or multiple neural spike trains. We simulate spike trains to test the performance of the method and demonstrate significant average error improvement over standard smoothing techniques.