Though the temporal precision of neural computation has been studied intensively, a data-driven determination of this precision remains a fundamental challenge. Reproducible spike patterns may be obscured on single trials by uncontrolled temporal variability in behavior and cognition and may not be time locked to measurable signatures in behavior or local field potentials (LFP). To overcome these challenges, we describe a general-purpose time warping framework that reveals precise spike-time patterns in an unsupervised manner, even when these patterns are decoupled from behavior or are temporally stretched across single trials. We demonstrate this method across diverse systems: cued reaching in nonhuman primates, motor sequence production in rats, and olfaction in mice. This approach flexibly uncovers diverse dynamical firing patterns, including pulsatile responses to behavioral events, LFP-aligned oscillatory spiking, and even unanticipated patterns, such as 7 Hz oscillations in rat motor cortex that are not time locked to measured behaviors or LFP.
PMID: 31786013 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.10.020