Mathematics, Department of


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Published in Neural Computation 20, 644–667 (2008). Copyright 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Used by permission.


The ultimate product of an electrophysiology experiment is often a decision on which biological hypothesis or model best explains the observed data. We outline a paradigm designed for comparison of different models, which we refer to as spike train prediction. A key ingredient of this paradigm is a prediction quality valuation that estimates how close a predicted conditional intensity function is to an actual observed spike train. Although a valuation based on log likelihood (L) is most natural, it has various complications in this context. We propose that a quadratic valuation (Q) can be used as an alternative to L. Q shares some important theoretical properties with L, including consistency, and the two valuations perform similarly on simulated and experimental data. Moreover,Q is more robust than L, and optimization with Q can dramatically improve computational efficiency. We illustrate the utility of Q for comparing models of peer prediction, where it can be computed directly from crosscorrelograms. Although Q does not have a straightforward probabilistic interpretation, Q is essentially given by Euclidean distance.

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