Keywords: neuroscience, dimensionality reduction, probabilistic methods, inter-area interactions
TL;DR: New probabilistic estimator partitions multi-area neural variability into shared and private sources, aligned to meaningful task axes.
Abstract: Latent manifolds provide a compact characterization of neural population activity and of shared co-variability across brain areas. Nonetheless, existing statistical tools for extracting neural manifolds face limitations in terms of interpretability of latents with respect to task variables, and can be hard to apply to datasets with no trial repeats. Here we propose a novel probabilistic framework that allows for interpretable partitioning of population variability within and across areas in the context of naturalistic behavior. Our approach for task aligned manifold estimation (TAME-GP) explicitly partitions variability into private and shared sources which can themselves be subdivided in task-relevant and task irrelevant components, uses a realistic Poisson noise model, and introduces temporal smoothing of latent trajectories in the form of a Gaussian Process prior. This TAME-GP graphical model allows for robust estimation of task-relevant variability in local population responses, and of shared co-variability between brain areas. We demonstrate the efficiency of our estimator on within model and biologically motivated simulated data. We also apply it to several datasets of neural population recordings during behavior. Overall, our results demonstrate the capacity of TAME-GP to capture meaningful intra- and inter-area neural variability with single trial resolution.
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