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What can spike train distances tell us about the neural code?

TitleWhat can spike train distances tell us about the neural code?
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsChicharro D, Kreuz T, Andrzejak RG
Date PublishedJUL 15

Time scale parametric spike train distances like the Victor and the van Rossum distances are often applied to study the neural code based on neural stimuli discrimination. Different neural coding hypotheses, such as rate or coincidence coding, can be assessed by combining a time scale parametric spike train distance with a classifier in order to obtain the optimal discrimination performance. The time scale for which the responses to different stimuli are distinguished best is assumed to be the discriminative precision of the neural code. The relevance of temporal coding is evaluated by comparing the optimal discrimination performance with the one achieved when assuming a rate code. We here characterize the measures quantifying the discrimination performance, the discriminative precision, and the relevance of temporal coding. Furthermore, we evaluate the information these quantities provide about the neural code. We show that the discriminative precision is too unspecific to be interpreted in terms of the time scales relevant for encoding. Accordingly, the time scale parametric nature of the distances is mainly an advantage because it allows maximizing the discrimination performance across a whole set of measures with different sensitivities determined by the time scale parameter, but not due to the possibility to examine the temporal properties of the neural code. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.