Neural spike train synchronization indices: Definitions, interpretations, and applications

D.M. Halliday, J.R. Rosenberg, P. Breeze, B.A. Conway

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A comparison of previously defined spike train synchronization indices is undertaken within a stochastic point process framework. The second-order cumulant density (covariance density) is shown to be common to all the indices. Simulation studies were used to investigate the sampling variability of a single index based on the second-order cumulant. The simulations used a paired motoneurone model and a paired regular spiking cortical neurone model. The sampling variability of spike trains generated under identical conditions from the paired motoneurone model varied from 50% to 160% of the estimated value. On theoretical grounds, and on the basis of simulated data a rate dependence is present in all synchronization indices. The application of coherence and pooled coherence estimates to the issue of synchronization indices is considered. This alternative frequency domain approach allows an arbitrary number of spike train pairs to be evaluated for statistically significant differences, and combined into a single population measure. The pooled coherence framework allows pooled time domain measures to be derived, application of this to the simulated data is illustrated. Data from the cortical neurone model is generated over a wide range of firing rates (1-250 spikes/s). The pooled coherence framework correctly characterizes the sampling variability as not significant over this wide operating range. The broader applicability of this approach to multielectrode array data is briefly discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1056-1066
Number of pages10
JournalIEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006

Bibliographical note

© Copyright 2006 IEEE. Personal use of this material is permitted. However, permission to reprint/republish this material for advertising or promotional purposes or for creating new collective works for resale or redistribution to servers or lists, or to reuse any copyrighted component of this work in other works must be obtained from the IEEE.


  • coherence
  • cross-correlation
  • motor units
  • synchronization indices

Cite this