A simple model of long-term spike train regularization

Relly Brandman, Mark E. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A simple model of spike generation is described that gives rise to negative correlations in the interspike interval (ISI) sequence and leads to long-term spike train regularization. This regularization can be seen by examining the variance of the kth-order interval distribution for large k (the times between spike i and spike i + k). The variance is much smaller than would be expected if successive ISIs were uncorrelated. Such regularizing effects have been observed in the spike trains of electrosensory afferent nerve fibers and can lead to dramatic improvement in the detectability of weak signals encoded in the spike train data (Ratnam & Nelson, 2000). Here, we present a simple neural model in which negative ISI correlations and long-term spike train regularization arise from refractory effects associated with a dynamic spike threshold. Our model is derived from a more detailed model of electrosensory afferent dynamics developed recently by other investigators (Chacron, Longtin, St.-Hilaire, & Maler, 2000; Chacron, Longtin, & Maler, 2001). The core of this model is a dynamic spike threshold that is transiently elevated following a spike and subsequently decays until the next spike is generated. Here, we present a simplified version - the linear adaptive threshold model - that contains a single state variable and three free parameters that control the mean and coefficient of variation of the spontaneous ISI distribution and the frequency characteristics of the driven response. We show that refractory effects associated with the dynamic threshold lead to regularization of the spike train on long timescales. Furthermore, we show that this regularization enhances the detectability of weak signals encoded by the linear adaptive threshold model. Although inspired by properties of electrosensory afferent nerve fibers, such regularizing effects may play an important role in other neural systems where weak signals must be reliably detected in noisy spike trains. When modeling a neuronal system that exhibits this type of ISI correlation structure, the linear adaptive threshold model may provide a more appropriate starting point than conventional renewal process models that lack long-term regularizing effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1575-1597
Number of pages23
JournalNeural Computation
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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