Recent advances in large-scale ensemble recordings allow monitoring of activity patterns of several hundreds of neurons in freely behaving animals. The emergence of such high-dimensional datasets poses challenges for the identification and analysis of dynamical network patterns. While several types of multivariate statistical methods have been used for integrating responses from multiple neurons, their effectiveness in pattern classification and predictive power has not been compared in a direct and systematic manner. Here we systematically employed a series of projection methods, such as Multiple Discriminant Analysis (MDA), Principal Components Analysis (PCA) and Artificial Neural Networks (ANN), and compared them with non-projection multivariate statistical methods such as Multivariate Gaussian Distributions (MGD). Our analyses of hippocampal data recorded during episodic memory events and cortical data simulated during face perception or arm movements illustrate how low-dimensional encoding subspaces can reveal the existence of network-level ensemble representations. We show how the use of regularization methods can prevent these statistical methods from over-fitting of training data sets when the trial numbers are much smaller than the number of recorded units. Moreover, we investigated the extent to which the computations implemented by the projection methods reflect the underlying hierarchical properties of the neural populations. Based on their ability to extract the essential features for pattern classification, we conclude that the typical performance ranking of these methods on under-sampled neural data of large dimension is MDA>PCA>ANN>MGD.
ASJC Scopus subject areas