Reading a Neural Code

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 2 (NIPS 1989)

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William Bialek, Fred Rieke, Robert van Steveninck, David Warland


Traditional methods of studying neural coding characterize the en(cid:173) coding of known stimuli in average neural responses. Organisms face nearly the opposite task - decoding short segments of a spike train to extract information about an unknown, time-varying stim(cid:173) ulus. Here we present strategies for characterizing the neural code from the point of view of the organism, culminating in algorithms for real-time stimulus reconstruction based on a single sample of the spike train. These methods are applied to the design and anal(cid:173) ysis of experiments on an identified movement-sensitive neuron in the fly visual system. As far as we know this is the first instance in which a direct "reading" of the neural code has been accomplished.