Statistical evaluation of synchronous spike patterns extracted by frequent item set mining

Front Comput Neurosci. 2013 Oct 23;7:132. doi: 10.3389/fncom.2013.00132. eCollection 2013.


We recently proposed frequent itemset mining (FIM) as a method to perform an optimized search for patterns of synchronous spikes (item sets) in massively parallel spike trains. This search outputs the occurrence count (support) of individual patterns that are not trivially explained by the counts of any superset (closed frequent item sets). The number of patterns found by FIM makes direct statistical tests infeasible due to severe multiple testing. To overcome this issue, we proposed to test the significance not of individual patterns, but instead of their signatures, defined as the pairs of pattern size z and support c. Here, we derive in detail a statistical test for the significance of the signatures under the null hypothesis of full independence (pattern spectrum filtering, PSF) by means of surrogate data. As a result, injected spike patterns that mimic assembly activity are well detected, yielding a low false negative rate. However, this approach is prone to additionally classify patterns resulting from chance overlap of real assembly activity and background spiking as significant. These patterns represent false positives with respect to the null hypothesis of having one assembly of given signature embedded in otherwise independent spiking activity. We propose the additional method of pattern set reduction (PSR) to remove these false positives by conditional filtering. By employing stochastic simulations of parallel spike trains with correlated activity in form of injected spike synchrony in subsets of the neurons, we demonstrate for a range of parameter settings that the analysis scheme composed of FIM, PSF and PSR allows to reliably detect active assemblies in massively parallel spike trains.

Keywords: data mining; higher-order correlations; multiple testing; neuronal cell assemblies; spike patterns; spike synchrony.