Perceptions, thoughts, and actions unfold over millisecond timescales, while learned behaviors can require many days to mature. While recent experimental advances enable large-scale and long-term neural recordings with high temporal fidelity, it remains a formidable challenge to extract unbiased and interpretable descriptions of how rapid single-trial circuit dynamics change slowly over many trials to mediate learning. We demonstrate a simple tensor component analysis (TCA) can meet this challenge by extracting three interconnected, low-dimensional descriptions of neural data: neuron factors, reflecting cell assemblies; temporal factors, reflecting rapid circuit dynamics mediating perceptions, thoughts, and actions within each trial; and trial factors, describing both long-term learning and trial-to-trial changes in cognitive state. We demonstrate the broad applicability of TCA by revealing insights into diverse datasets derived from artificial neural networks, large-scale calcium imaging of rodent prefrontal cortex during maze navigation, and multielectrode recordings of macaque motor cortex during brain machine interface learning.
Keywords: brain machine interfaces; dimensionality reduction; gain modulation; large-scale recordings; learning; motor control; navigation; neural data analysis; recurrent neural networks; single-trial analysis.
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