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J Neurosci Methods. 2009 Feb 15;177(1):241-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2008.09.026. Epub 2008 Oct 8.

A novel algorithm for precise identification of spikes in extracellularly recorded neuronal signals.

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Department of Neuroscience and Brain Technology, Italian Institute of Technology, Via Morego 30, 16163 Genova, Italy.


The spike represents the fundamental bit of information transmitted by the neurons within a network in order to communicate. Then, given the importance of the spike rate as well as the spike time for coding the activity generated at the level of a cell assembly, a relevant issue in extracellular electrophysiology is the correct identification of the spike in multisite recordings from brain areas or neuronal networks. In this paper, we present a novel spike detection algorithm, named Precise Timing Spike Detection (PTSD), aimed at (i) reducing the number of false positives and false negatives, in order to optimize the rate code, and (ii) improving the time precision of the identified spike, in order to optimize the spike timing. The PTSD algorithm considers consecutive portions of the signal and looks for the Relative Maximum/Minimum whose peak-to-peak amplitude is above a defined differential threshold and responds to specific requirements. To validate the algorithm, the presented spike detection has been compared with other methods either commercially available or proposed in the literature by using two benchmarking procedures: (i) visual inspection by a group of experts of a portion of signal recorded from a rat cortical culture and (ii) detection of the spikes generated by a realistic neuronal network model. In both cases our algorithm produced the best performances in terms of efficiency and precision. The ROC curve analysis further proved that the best results are reached by the application of the PTSD.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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