Understanding spike-triggered covariance using Wiener theory for receptive field identification

J Vis. 2015;15(9):16. doi: 10.1167/15.9.16.


Receptive field identification is a vital problem in sensory neurophysiology and vision. Much research has been done in identifying the receptive fields of nonlinear neurons whose firing rate is determined by the nonlinear interactions of a small number of linear filters. Despite more advanced methods that have been proposed, spike-triggered covariance (STC) continues to be the most widely used method in such situations due to its simplicity and intuitiveness. Although the connection between STC and Wiener/Volterra kernels has often been mentioned in the literature, this relationship has never been explicitly derived. Here we derive this relationship and show that the STC matrix is actually a modified version of the second-order Wiener kernel, which incorporates the input autocorrelation and mixes first- and second-order dynamics. It is then shown how, with little modification of the STC method, the Wiener kernels may be obtained and, from them, the principal dynamic modes, a set of compact and efficient linear filters that essentially combine the spike-triggered average and STC matrix and generalize to systems with both continuous and point-process outputs. Finally, using Wiener theory, we show how these obtained filters may be corrected when they were estimated using correlated inputs. Our correction technique is shown to be superior to those commonly used in the literature for both correlated Gaussian images and natural images.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Normal Distribution
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Retinal Neurons / physiology
  • Signal Detection, Psychological*
  • Visual Fields / physiology*