The temporal waveform of neural activity is commonly estimated by low-pass filtering spike train data through convolution with a gaussian kernel. However, the criteria for selecting the gaussian width σ are not well understood. Given an ensemble of Poisson spike trains generated by an instantaneous firing rate function λ(t), the problem was to recover an optimal estimate of λ(t) by gaussian filtering. We provide equations describing the optimal value of σ using an error minimization criterion and examine how the optimal σ varies within a parameter space defining the statistics of inhomogeneous Poisson spike trains. The process was studied both analytically and through simulations. The rate functions λ(t) were randomly generated, with the three parameters defining spike statistics being the mean of λ(t), the variance of λ(t), and the exponent α of the Fourier amplitude spectrum 1/fα of λ(t). The value of σopt followed a power law as a function of the pooled mean interspike interval I, σopt = aIb, where a was inversely related to the coefficient of variation CV of λ(t), and b was inversely related to the Fourier spectrum exponent α. Besides applications for data analysis, optimal recovery of an analog signal waveform λ(t) from spike trains may also be useful in understanding neural signal processing in vivo.

You do not currently have access to this content.