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The impact of reducing signal acquisition specifications on neuronal spike sorting.


Measuring electrical potentials in the extracellular space of the brain is a popular technique because it can detect action potentials from putative individual neurons. Electrophysiology is undergoing a transformation where the number of recording channels, and thus number of neurons detected, is growing at a dramatic rate. This rapid scaling is paving the way for both new discoveries and commercial applications; however, as the number of channels increases there will be an increasing need to make these systems more power efficient. One area ripe for optimization are the signal acquisition specifications needed to detect and sort action potentials (i.e., "spikes") to putative single neuron sources. In this work, we take existing recordings collected using Intan hardware and modify them in a way that corresponds to reduced recording performance. The accuracy of these degraded recordings to spike sort using MountainSort4 is evaluated by comparing against expert labels. We show that despite reducing signal specifications by a factor of 2 or more, spike sorting accuracy does not change substantially. Specifically, reducing both sample rate and bit depth from 30 kHz and 16 bits to 12 kHz and 12 bits resulted in a 3% drop in spike sorting accuracy. Our results suggest that current neural acquisition systems are over-specified. These results may inform the design of next generation neural acquisition systems enabling higher channel count systems.

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