- Abstract: Developing accurate predictive models of sensory neurons is vital to understanding sensory processing and brain computations. The current standard approach to modeling neurons is to start with simple models and to incrementally add interpretable features. An alternative approach is to start with a more complex model that captures responses accurately, and then probe the fitted model structure to understand the neural computations. Here, we show that a multitask recurrent neural network (RNN) framework provides the flexibility necessary to model complex computations of neurons that cannot be captured by previous methods. Specifically, multilayer recurrent neural networks that share features across neurons outperform generalized linear models (GLMs) in predicting the spiking responses of parasol ganglion cells in the primate retina to natural images. The networks achieve good predictive performance given surprisingly small amounts of experimental training data. Additionally, we present a novel GLM-RNN hybrid model with separate spatial and temporal processing components which provides insights into the aspects of retinal processing better captured by the recurrent neural networks.