Mixed vine copula flows for flexible modeling of neural dependencies

Lazaros Mitskopoulos, Theoklitos Amvrosiadis, Arno Onken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Recordings of complex neural population responses provide a unique opportunity for advancing our understanding of neural information processing at multiple scales and improving performance of brain computer interfaces. However, most existing analytical techniques fall short of capturing the complexity of interactions within the concerted population activity. Vine copula-based approaches have shown to be successful at addressing complex high-order dependencies within the population, disentangled from the single-neuron statistics. However, most applications have focused on parametric copulas which bear the risk of misspecifying dependence structures. In order to avoid this risk, we adopted a fully non-parametric approach for the single-neuron margins and copulas by using Neural Spline Flows (NSF). We validated the NSF framework on simulated data of continuous and discrete types with various forms of dependency structures and with different dimensionality. Overall, NSFs performed similarly to existing non-parametric estimators, while allowing for considerably faster and more flexible sampling which also enables faster Monte Carlo estimation of copula entropy. Moreover, our framework was able to capture low and higher order heavy tail dependencies in neuronal responses recorded in the mouse primary visual cortex during a visual learning task while the animal was navigating a virtual reality environment. These findings highlight an often ignored aspect of complexity in coordinated neuronal activity which can be important for understanding and deciphering collective neural dynamics for neurotechnological applications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number910122
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • neural dependencies
  • higher-order dependencies
  • heavy tail dependencies
  • vine copula flows
  • Neural Spline Flows
  • mixed variables


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