Neural Sensory Processing Group

Incorporating naturalistic correlation structure improves spectrogram reconstruction from neuronal activity in the songbird auditory midbrain
Journal of Neuroscience (2011)
Ramirez AD, Y Ahmadian, Schumacher J, Schneider D, Woolley SMN, and Paninski L


Birdsong is comprised of rich spectral and temporal organization, which might be used for vocal perception. To quantify how this structure could be used, we have reconstructed birdsong spectrograms by combining the spike trains of zebra finch auditory midbrain neurons with information about the correlations present in song. We calculated maximum a posteriori estimates of song spectrograms using a generalized linear model of neuronal responses and a series of prior distributions, each carrying different amounts of statistical information about zebra finch song. We found that spike trains from a population of mesencephalicus lateral dorsalis (MLd) neurons combined with an uncorrelated Gaussian prior can estimate the amplitude envelope of song spectrograms. The same set of responses can be combined with Gaussian priors that have correlations matched to those found across multiple zebra finch songs to yield song spectrograms similar to those presented to the animal. The fidelity of spectrogram reconstructions from MLd responses relies more heavily on prior knowledge of spectral correlations than temporal correlations. However, the best reconstructions combine MLd responses with both spectral and temporal correlations.