Understanding how rich dynamics emerge in neural populations requires models exhibiting a wide range of behaviors while remaining interpretable in terms of connectivity and single-neuron dynamics. However, it has been challenging to fit such mechanistic spiking networks at the single-neuron scale to empirical population data. To close this gap, we propose to fit such data at a mesoscale, using a mechanistic but low-dimensional and, hence, statistically tractable model. The mesoscopic representation is obtained by approximating a population of neurons as multiple homogeneous pools of neurons and modeling the dynamics of the aggregate population activity within each pool. We derive the likelihood of both single-neuron and connectivity parameters given this activity, which can then be used to optimize parameters by gradient ascent on the log likelihood or perform Bayesian inference using Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) sampling. We illustrate this approach using a model of generalized integrate-and-fire neurons for which mesoscopic dynamics have been previously derived and show that both single-neuron and connectivity parameters can be recovered from simulated data. In particular, our inference method extracts posterior correlations between model parameters, which define parameter subsets able to reproduce the data. We compute the Bayesian posterior for combinations of parameters using MCMC sampling and investigate how the approximations inherent in a mesoscopic population model affect the accuracy of the inferred single-neuron parameters.

}, issn = {1530-888X}, doi = {10.1162/neco_a_01292}, author = {Ren{\'e}, Alexandre and Longtin, Andre and Macke, Jakob H} }