Automating the design of informative sequences of sensory stimuli

Jeremy Lewi, David Schneider, Sarah Woolley, and Liam Paninski

In press, J. Comput. Neuro.
Adaptive stimulus design methods can potentially improve the efficiency of sensory neurophysiology experiments significantly; however, designing optimal stimulus sequences in real time remains a serious technical challenge. Here we describe two approximate methods for generating informative stimulus sequences: the first approach provides a fast method for scoring the informativeness of a batch of specific potential stimulus sequences, while the second method attempts to compute an optimal stimulus distribution from which the experimenter may easily sample. We apply these methods to single-neuron spike train data recorded from the auditory midbrain of zebra finches, and demonstrate that the resulting stimulus sequences do in fact provide more information about neuronal tuning in a shorter amount of time than do more standard experimental designs.
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