The analysis of cell type-specific activity patterns during behaviors is important for better understanding of how neural circuits generate cognition, but has not been well explored from in vivo neurophysiological datasets. Here, we describe a computational approach to uncover distinct cell subpopulations from in vivo neural spike datasets. This method, termed "inter-spike-interval classification-analysis" (ISICA), is comprised of four major steps: spike pattern feature-extraction, pre-clustering analysis, clustering classification, and unbiased classification-dimensionality selection. By using two key features of spike dynamic - namely, gamma distribution shape factors and a coefficient of variation of inter-spike interval - we show that this ISICA method provides invariant classification for dopaminergic neurons or CA1 pyramidal cell subtypes regardless of the brain states from which spike data were collected. Moreover, we show that these ISICA-classified neuron subtypes underlie distinct physiological functions. We demonstrate that the uncovered dopaminergic neuron subtypes encoded distinct aspects of fearful experiences such as valence or value, whereas distinct hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cells responded differentially to ketamine-induced anesthesia. This ISICA method should be useful to better data mining of large-scale in vivo neural datasets, leading to novel insights into circuit dynamics associated with cognitions.
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