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Neural Computation

August 1, 2001, Vol. 13, No. 8, Pages 1713-1720
(doi: 10.1162/08997660152469314)
© 2001 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
A Spike-Train Probability Model
Article PDF (92.1 KB)

Poisson processes usually provide adequate descriptions of the irregularity in neuron spike times after pooling the data across large numbers of trials, as is done in constructing the peristimulus time histogram. When probabilities are needed to describe the behavior of neurons within individual trials, however, Poisson process models are often inadequate. In principle, an explicit formula gives the probability density of a single spike train in great generality, but without additional assumptions, the firing-rate intensity function appearing in that formula cannot be estimated. We propose a simple solution to this problem, which is to assume that the time at which a neuron fires is determined probabilistically by, and only by, two quantities: the experimental clock time and the elapsed time since the previous spike. We show that this model can be fitted with standard methods and software and that it may used successfully to fit neuronal data.