Sampling effects and measurement overlap can bias the inference of neuronal avalanches


Pinheiro Neto J, Spitzner FP, Priesemann V


PLoS Computational Biology


PLoS Comput Biol 18(11): e1010678.


To date, it is still impossible to sample the entire mammalian brain with single-neuron precision. This forces one to either use spikes (focusing on few neurons) or to use coarse-sampled activity (averaging over many neurons, e.g. LFP). Naturally, the sampling technique impacts inference about collective properties. Here, we emulate both sampling techniques on a simple spiking model to quantify how they alter observed correlations and signatures of criticality. We describe a general effect: when the inter-electrode distance is small, electrodes sample overlapping regions in space, which increases the correlation between the signals. For coarse-sampled activity, this can produce power-law distributions even for non-critical systems. In contrast, spike recordings do not suffer this particular bias and underlying dynamics can be identified. This may resolve why coarse measures and spikes have produced contradicting results in the past.


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