A method for selecting the bin size of a time histogram

Neural Comput. 2007 Jun;19(6):1503-27. doi: 10.1162/neco.2007.19.6.1503.


The time histogram method is the most basic tool for capturing a time dependent rate of neuronal spikes. Generally in the neurophysiological literature, the bin size that critically determines the goodness of the fit of the time histogram to the underlying spike rate has been subjectively selected by individual researchers. Here, we propose a method for objectively selecting the bin size from the spike count statistics alone, so that the resulting bar or line graph time histogram best represents the unknown underlying spike rate. For a small number of spike sequences generated from a modestly fluctuating rate, the optimal bin size may diverge, indicating that any time histogram is likely to capture a spurious rate. Given a paucity of data, the method presented here can nevertheless suggest how many experimental trials should be added in order to obtain a meaningful time-dependent histogram with the required accuracy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Time Factors