Biological Cybernetics

, Volume 59, Issue 3, pp 189–200

Maximum likelihood analysis of spike trains of interacting nerve cells

  • D. R. Brillinger

DOI: 10.1007/BF00318010

Cite this article as:
Brillinger, D.R. Biol. Cybern. (1988) 59: 189. doi:10.1007/BF00318010


Suppose that a neuron is firing spontaneously or that it is firing under the influence of other neurons. Suppose that the data available are the firing times of the neurons present. An “integrate several inputs and fire” model is developed and studied empirically. For the model a neuron's firing occurs when an internal state variable crosses a random threshold. This conceptual model leads to maximum likelihood estimates of internal quantities, such as the postsynaptic potentials of the measured influencing neurons, the membrane potential, the absolute threshold and also estimates of derived quantities such as the strength-duration curve and the recovery process of the threshold. The model's validity is examined via an estimate of the conditional firing probability. The approach appears useful for estimating biologically meaningful parameters, for examining hypotheses re these parameters, for understanding the connections present in neural networks and for aiding description and classification of neurons and synapses. Analyses are presented for a number of data sets collected for the sea hare,Aplysia californica, by J. P. Segundo. Both excitatory and inhibitory examples are provided. The computations were carried out via the Glim statistical package. An example of a Glim program realizing the work is presented in the Appendix.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. R. Brillinger
    • 1
  1. 1.Statistics DepartmentUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA