The detection of patterned spiking activity is important in the study of neural coding. A pattern filtering approach is developed for pattern detection under the framework of point processes, which offers flexibility in combining temporal details and firing rates. The detection combines multiple steps of filtering in a coarse-to-fine manner. Under some conditional Poisson assumptions on the spiking activity, each filtering step is equivalent to classifying by likelihood ratios all the data segments as targets or as background sequences. Unlike previous studies, where global surrogate data were used to evaluate the statistical significance of the detected patterns, a localizedp-test procedure is developed, which better accounts for firing modulation and nonstationarity in spiking activity. Common temporal structures of patterned activity are learned using an entropy-based alignment procedure, without relying on metrics or pair-wise alignment. Applications of pattern filtering to single, presumptive interneurons recorded in the nucleus HVc of zebra finch are illustrated. These demonstrate a match between the auditory-evoked response to playback of the individual bird's own song and spontaneous activity during sleep. Small temporal compression or expansion, or both, is required for optimal matching of spontaneous patterns to stimulus-evoked activity.

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