Information and Statistical Structure in Spike Trains

How can we calculate what we really want to know?

NIPS 2001 Workshop
December 8
Whistler, British Columbia

top description participants and abstracts submission logistics contacts


Understanding how neurons represent and manipulate information in their spike trains is one of the major fundamental problems in neuroscience. Moreover, advances towards its solution will rely on a combination of appropriate theoretical, computational, and experimental strategies.

Meaningful and reliable statistical analyses, including calculation of information and related quantities, are at the basis of understanding neural information processing. The accuracy and precision of statistical analyses and empirical information estimates depend strongly on the amount and quality of the data available, and on the assumptions that are made in order to apply the formalisms to a laboratory data set. These assumptions typically relate to the neural transduction itself (e.g., linearity or stationarity) and to the statistics of the spike trains (e.g., correlation structure). There are numerous approaches to conducting statistical analyses and estimating information-theoretic quantities, and there are also some major differences in findings across preparations. It is unclear to what extent these differences represent fundamental biological differences, differences in what is being measured, or methodological biases.

Thus, the workshop has several aims: (I) By presenting currently available methods in a tutorial-like fashion, we hope to lower the energy barrier to experimentalists who are interested in using statistical and information-theoretic approaches, but have not yet done so. The presentation of current methods is to be done in a manner that emphasizes the theoretical underpinnings of different strategies and the assumptions and tradeoffs that they make. (II) By providing a forum for open discussion among current practitioners, we hope to make progress towards understanding the relationships of the available techniques, guidelines for their application, and the basis of the differences in findings across preparations. (III) By presenting the (not fully satisfactory) state of the art to an audience that includes quantitative experimental scientists and theoreticians, we hope to spur progress towards the development of better techniques, with a particular emphasis on exploiting more refined hypotheses for spike train structure, and developing techniques that are applicable to multi-unit recordings.

Specific areas of focus build on last year's workshop (homepage and schedule), and will include:

top description participants and abstracts submission logistics contacts


Emery Brown, Harvard abstract
Alex Dimitrov, Montana State abstract
Richard Jenison, Wisconsin abstract
Robert Kass, Carnegie-Mellon abstract (unable to attend)
Barry Richmond, NIMH
Simon Schultz, NYU abstract
Rob Smith, U of Pennsylvania abstract
Garrett Stanley, Harvard abstract
Misha Tsodyks, Weizmann abstract
Jonathan Victor, Cornell abstract

top description participants and abstracts submission logistics contacts


No further slots are available for contributed presentations (the deadline was October 12). Presenters should plan a talk of approximately 20 minutes, with 10 minutes for discussion, and should inform the organizers of projection needs as soon as possible (overheads, 2x2 slides, LCD data projector).

top description participants and abstracts submission logistics contacts


The workshops sponsored by NIPS, will be held on Friday Dec. 7 and Saturday Dec. 8 at Delta Whistler Resort. This workshop will take place on Saturday Dec. 8, from 7:30 AM - 10:30 AM and 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM. 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM is open for extracurricular activities. There will be a welcoming reception Thursday evening (Dec. 6), an informal social with appetizers Friday night (Dec. 7), and a banquet/wrap-up session Saturday (Dec. 8) night, featuring a brief, and possibly humorous, overview/summary of each of the workshops.

This workshop session follows the regular NIPS meeting in Vancouver. Individuals attending both the NIPS workshops in Whistler and the Vancouver meeting can arrange transportation between the sites through NIPS.

Workshop registration and additional information is available at the NIPS website.

Whistler is a ski resort. It is not nearly as high as Breckenridge (2,182m at the top, 653m at the base), so altitude sickness is not likely to be an issue. Nevertheless, here is a link to information about altitude sickness left over from the Breckenridge days.

top description participants and abstracts submission logistics contacts


Jonathan Victor
(212) 746 2343
Department of Neurology and Neuroscience
Weill Medical College of Cornell University
1300 York Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Emery Brown
(617) 726 8786
Harvard Medical School/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology
Massachusetts General Hospital
25 Shattuck Street
Boston, MA 02115-6092

NIPS 2001 Meeting Information
NIPS website
Delta Whistler Resort
top description participants and abstracts submission logistics contacts

Last revised: 12/14/01