Neural decoding with visual attention using sequential Monte Carlo for leaky integrate-and-fire neurons

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How the brain makes sense of a complicated environment is an important question, and a first step is to be able to reconstruct the stimulus that give rise to an observed brain response. Neural coding relates neurobiological observations to external stimuli using computational methods. Encoding refers to how a stimulus affects the neuronal output, and entails constructing a neural model and parameter estimation. Decoding refers to reconstruction of the stimulus that led to a given neuronal output. Existing decoding methods rarely explain neuronal responses to complicated stimuli in a principled way. Here we perform neural decoding for a mixture of multiple stimuli using the leaky integrate-and-fire model describing neural spike trains, under the visual attention hypothesis of probability mixing in which the neuron only attends to a single stimulus at any given time. We assume either a parallel or serial processing visual search mechanism when decoding multiple simultaneous neurons. We consider one or multiple stochastic stimuli following Ornstein-Uhlenbeck processes, and dynamic neuronal attention that switches following discrete Markov processes. To decode stimuli in such situations, we develop various sequential Monte Carlo particle methods in different settings. The likelihood of the observed spike trains is obtained through the first-passage time probabilities obtained by solving the Fokker-Planck equations. We show that the stochastic stimuli can be successfully decoded by sequential Monte Carlo, and different particle methods perform differently considering the number of observed spike trains, the number of stimuli, model complexity, etc. The proposed novel decoding methods, which analyze the neural data through psychological visual attention theories, provide new perspectives to understand the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0216322
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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