The problem of predicting the position of a freely foraging rat based on the ensemble firing patterns of place cells recorded from the CA1 region of its hippocampus is used to develop a two-stage statistical paradigm for neural spike train decoding. In the first, or encoding stage, place cell spiking activity is modeled as an inhomogeneous Poisson process whose instantaneous rate is a function of the animal’s position in space and phase of its theta rhythm. The animal’s path is modeled as a Gaussian random walk. In the second, or decoding stage, a Bayesian statistical paradigm is used to derive a nonlinear recursive causal filter algorithm for predicting the position of the animal from the place cell ensemble firing patterns. The algebra of the decoding algorithm defines an explicit map of the discrete spike trains into the position prediction. The confidence regions for the position predictions quantify spike train infor
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