This study investigates a population decoding paradigm in which the maximum likelihood inference is based on an unfaithful decoding model (UMLI). This is usually the case for neural population decoding because the encoding process of the brain is not exactly known or because a simplified decoding model is preferred for saving computational cost. We consider an unfaithful decoding model that neglects the pair-wise correlation between neuronal activities and prove that UMLI is asymptotically efficient when the neuronal correlation is uniform or of limited range. The performance of UMLI is compared with that of the maximum likelihood inference based on the faithful model and that of the center-of-mass decoding method. It turns out that UMLI has advantages of decreasing the computational complexity remarkably and maintaining high-leveldecoding accuracy. Moreover, it can be implemented by a biologically feasible recurrent network (Pouget, Zhang, Deneve, & Latham, 1998). The effect of correlation on the decoding accuracy is also discussed.

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