This letter presents a general framework based on reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces (RKHS) to mathematically describe and manipulate spike trains. The main idea is the definition of inner products to allow spike train signal processing from basic principles while incorporating their statistical description as point processes. Moreover, because many inner products can be formulated, a particular definition can be crafted to best fit an application. These ideas are illustrated by the definition of a number of spike train inner products. To further elicit the advantages of the RKHS framework, a family of these inner products, the cross-intensity (CI) kernels, is analyzed in detail. This inner product family encapsulates the statistical description from the conditional intensity functions of spike trains. The problem of their estimation is also addressed. The simplest of the spike train kernels in this family provide an interesting perspective to others' work, as will be demonstrated in terms of spike train distance measures. Finally, as an application example, the RKHS framework is used to derive a clustering algorithm for spike trains from simple principles.

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