Point process modeling as a framework to dissociate intrinsic and extrinsic components in neural systems
Fiddyment, Grant Michael
Understanding the factors shaping neuronal spiking is a central problem in neuroscience. Neurons may have complicated sensitivity and, often, are embedded in dynamic networks whose ongoing activity may influence their likelihood of spiking. One approach to characterizing neuronal spiking is the point process generalized linear model (GLM), which decomposes spike probability into explicit factors. This model represents a higher level of abstraction than biophysical models, such as Hodgkin-Huxley, but benefits from principled approaches for estimation and validation. Here we address how to infer factors affecting neuronal spiking in different types of neural systems. We first extend the point process GLM, most commonly used to analyze single neurons, to model population-level voltage discharges recorded during human seizures. Both GLMs and descriptive measures reveal rhythmic bursting and directional wave propagation. However, we show that GLM estimates account for covariance between these features in a way that pairwise measures do not. Failure to account for this covariance leads to confounded results. We interpret the GLM results to speculate the mechanisms of seizure and suggest new therapies. The second chapter highlights flexibility of the GLM. We use this single framework to analyze enhancement, a statistical phenomenon, in three distinct systems. Here we define the enhancement score, a simple measure of shared information between spike factors in a GLM. We demonstrate how to estimate the score, including confidence intervals, using simulated data. In real data, we find that enhancement occurs prominently during human seizure, while redundancy tends to occur in mouse auditory networks. We discuss implications for physiology, particularly during seizure. In the third part of this thesis, we apply point process modeling to spike trains recorded from single units in vitro under external stimulation. We re-parameterize models in a low-dimensional and physically interpretable way; namely, we represent their effects in principal component space. We show that this approach successfully separates the neurons observed in vitro into different classes consistent with their gene expression profiles. Taken together, this work contributes a statistical framework for analyzing neuronal spike trains and demonstrates how it can be applied to create new insights into clinical and experimental data sets.