With our ability to record more neurons simultaneously, making sense of these data is a challenge. Functional connectivity is one popular way to study the relationship of multiple neural signals. Correlation-based methods are a set of currently well-used techniques for functional connectivity estimation. However, due to explaining away and unobserved common inputs (Stevenson, Rebesco, Miller, & Körding, 2008), they produce spurious connections. The general linear model (GLM), which models spike trains as Poisson processes (Okatan, Wilson, & Brown, 2005; Truccolo, Eden, Fellows, Donoghue, & Brown, 2005; Pillow et al., 2008), avoids these confounds. We develop here a new class of methods by using differential signals based on simulated intracellular voltage recordings. It is equivalent to a regularized AR(2) model. We also expand the method to simulated local field potential recordings and calcium imaging. In all of our simulated data, the differential covariance-based methods achieved performance better than or similar to the GLM method and required fewer data samples. This new class of methods provides alternative ways to analyze neural signals.

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