A central question in neuroscience is how interactions between neurons give rise to behavior. In many electrophysiological experiments, the activity of a set of neurons is recorded while sensory stimuli or movement tasks are varied. Tools that aim to reveal underlying interactions between neurons from such data can be extremely useful. Traditionally, neuroscientists have studied these interactions using purely descriptive statistics (cross-correlograms or joint peri-stimulus time histograms). However, the interpretation of such data is often difficult, particularly as the number of recorded neurons grows. Recent research suggests that model-based, maximum likelihood methods can improve these analyses. In addition to estimating neural interactions, application of these techniques has improved decoding of external variables, created novel interpretations of existing electrophysiological data, and may provide new insight into how the brain represents information.