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Probabilistic Tensor Decomposition of Neural Population Spiking Activity

Hugo Soulat · Sepiedeh Keshavarzi · Troy Margrie · Maneesh Sahani


The firing of neural populations is coordinated across cells, in time, and across experimentalconditions or repeated experimental trials; and so a full understanding of the computationalsignificance of neural responses must be based on a separation of these different contributions tostructured activity.Tensor decomposition is an approach to untangling the influence of multiple factors in data that iscommon in many fields. However, despite some recent interest in neuroscience, wider applicabilityof the approach is hampered by the lack of a full probabilistic treatment allowing principledinference of a decomposition from non-Gaussian spike-count data.Here, we extend the Pólya-Gamma (PG) augmentation, previously used in sampling-based Bayesianinference, to implement scalable variational inference in non-conjugate spike-count models.Using this new approach, we develop techniques related to automatic relevance determination to inferthe most appropriate tensor rank, as well as to incorporate priors based on known brain anatomy suchas the segregation of cell response properties by brain area.We apply the model to neural recordings taken under conditions of visual-vestibular sensoryintegration, revealing how the encoding of self- and visual-motion signals is modulated by thesensory information available to the animal.

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