A new similarity measure for spike trains: Sensitivity to bursts and periods of inhibition

David Lyttle, Jean Marc Fellous

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


An important problem in neuroscience is that of constructing quantitative measures of the similarity between neural spike trains. These measures can be used, for example, to assess the reliability of the response of a single neuron to repeated stimulus presentations, or to uncover relationships in the firing patterns of multiple neurons in a population. While several similarity measures have been proposed, the extent to which they take into account various biologically important spike train features such as bursts of spikes, or periods of inactivity remains poorly understood. Here we compare these measures using tests specifically designed to assess the sensitivity to bursts and silent periods. In addition, we propose two new measures. The first is designed to detect periods of shared silence between spike trains, while the second is designed to emphasize the presence of common bursts. To assist researchers in determining which measure is best suited to their particular data analysis needs, we also show how these measures can be combined and how their parameters can be determined on the basis of physiologically relevant quantities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)296-309
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 15 2011


  • Neural coding
  • Neural data analysis
  • Spike train metrics
  • Synchrony
  • Time series analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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