Receptive field estimation in large visual neuron assemblies using a super-resolution approach

Daniela Pamplona*, Gerrit Hilgen, Matthias Helge Hennig, Bruno Cessac, Evelyne Sernagor, Pierre Kornprobst*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Computing the spike-triggered average (STA) is a simple method to estimate linear receptive fields (RFs) in sensory neurons. For random, uncorrelated stimuli, the STA provides an unbiased RF estimate, but in practice, white noise at high resolution is not an optimal stimulus choice as it usually evokes only weak responses. Therefore, for a visual stimulus, images of randomly modulated blocks of pixels are often used. This solution naturally limits the resolution at which an RF can be measured. Here, we present a simple super-resolution technique that can overcome these limitations. We define a novel stimulus type, the shifted white noise (SWN), by introducing random spatial shifts in the usual stimulus to increase the resolution of the measurements. In simulated data, we show that the average error using the SWN was 1.7 times smaller than when using the classical stimulus, with successful mapping of 2.3 times more neurons, covering a broader range of RF sizes. Moreover, successful RF mapping was achieved with brief recordings of light responses, lasting only about 1 min of activity, which is more than 10 times more efficient than the classical white noise stimulus. In recordings from mouse retinal ganglion cells with large scale multielectrode arrays, we successfully mapped 21 times more RFs than when using the traditional white noise stimuli. In summary, randomly shifting the usual white noise stimulus significantly improves RFs estimation, and requires only short recordings.NEW & NOTEWORTHY We present a novel approach to measure receptive fields in large and heterogeneous populations of sensory neurons recorded with large-scale, high-density multielectrode arrays. Our approach leverages super-resolution principles to improve the yield of the spike-triggered average method. By simply designing a new stimulus, we provide experimentalists with a new and fast technique to simultaneously detect more receptive fields at higher resolution in population of hundreds to thousands of neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1334-1347
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number5
Early online date2 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022


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