Identifying and classifying action potential shapes in extracellular neural waveforms have long been the subject of research, and although several algorithms for this purpose have been successfully applied, their use has been limited by some outstanding problems. The first is how to determine shapes of the action potentials in the waveform and, second, how to decide how many shapes are distinct. A harder problem is that action potentials frequently overlap making difficult both the determination of the shapes and the classification of the spikes. In this report, a solution to each of these problems is obtained by applying Bayesian probability theory. By defining a probabilistic model of the waveform, the probability of both the form and number of spike shapes can be quantified. In addition, this framework is used to obtain an efficient algorithm for the decomposition of arbitrarily complex overlap sequences. This algorithm can extract many times more information than previous methods and facilitates the extracellular investigation of neuronal classes and of interactions within neuronal circuits.

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