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Active learning of neural response functions with Gaussian processes
Mijung Park · Greg Horwitz · Jonathan W Pillow

Tue Dec 13 02:04 AM -- 02:08 AM (PST) @

A sizable literature has focused on the problem of estimating a low-dimensional feature space capturing a neuron's stimulus sensitivity. However, comparatively little work has addressed the problem of estimating the nonlinear function from feature space to a neuron's output spike rate. Here, we use a Gaussian process (GP) prior over the infinite-dimensional space of nonlinear functions to obtain Bayesian estimates of the ""nonlinearity"" in the linear-nonlinear-Poisson (LNP) encoding model. This offers flexibility, robustness, and computational tractability compared to traditional methods (e.g., parametric forms, histograms, cubic splines). Most importantly, we develop a framework for optimal experimental design based on uncertainty sampling. This involves adaptively selecting stimuli to characterize the nonlinearity with as little experimental data as possible, and relies on a method for rapidly updating hyperparameters using the Laplace approximation. We apply these methods to data from color-tuned neurons in macaque V1. We estimate nonlinearities in the 3D space of cone contrasts, which reveal that V1 combines cone inputs in a highly nonlinear manner. With simulated experiments, we show that optimal design substantially reduces the amount of data required to estimate this nonlinear combination rule.

Author Information

Mijung Park (University of Texas)
Greg Horwitz
Jonathan W Pillow (UT Austin)

Jonathan Pillow is an assistant professor in Psychology and Neurobiology at the University of Texas at Austin. He graduated from the University of Arizona in 1997 with a degree in mathematics and philosophy, and was a U.S. Fulbright fellow in Morocco in 1998. He received his Ph.D. in neuroscience from NYU in 2005, and was a Royal Society postdoctoral reserach fellow at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, UCL from 2005 to 2008. His recent work involves statistical methods for understanding the neural code in single neurons and neural populations, and his lab conducts psychophysical experiments designed to test Bayesian models of human sensory perception.

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