PySpike

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PySpike is a Python library for the numerical analysis of spike train similarity. Its core functionality is the implementation of the ISI and SPIKE distance [1] [2] as well as SPIKE-Synchronization [3]. It provides functions to compute multivariate profiles, distance matrices, as well as averaging and general spike train processing. All computation intensive parts are implemented in C via cython to reach a competitive performance (factor 100-200 over plain Python).

PySpike provides the same fundamental functionality as the SPIKY framework for Matlab, which additionally contains spike-train generators, more spike train distance measures and many visualization routines.

All source codes are available on Github and are published under the BSD_License.

[1]Kreuz T, Haas JS, Morelli A, Abarbanel HDI, Politi A, Measuring spike train synchrony. J Neurosci Methods 165, 151 (2007) [pdf]
[2]Kreuz T, Chicharro D, Houghton C, Andrzejak RG, Mormann F, Monitoring spike train synchrony. J Neurophysiol 109, 1457 (2013) [pdf]
[3]Kreuz T, Mulansky M and Bozanic N, SPIKY: A graphical user interface for monitoring spike train synchrony, J Neurophysiol, in press (2015)

Important Changelog

With version 0.5.0, the interfaces have been unified and the specific functions for multivariate computations have become deprecated.

With version 0.2.0, the SpikeTrain class has been introduced to represent spike trains. This is a breaking change in the function interfaces. Hence, programs written for older versions of PySpike (0.1.x) will not run with newer versions.

Requirements and Installation

PySpike is available at Python Package Index and this is the easiest way to obtain the PySpike package. If you have pip installed, just run

sudo pip install pyspike

to install pyspike. PySpike requires numpy as minimal requirement, as well as a C compiler to generate the binaries.

Install from Github sources

You can also obtain the latest PySpike developer version from the github repository. For that, make sure you have the following Python libraries installed:

  • numpy
  • cython
  • matplotlib (for the examples)
  • nosetests (for running the tests)

In particular, make sure that cython is configured properly and able to locate a C compiler, otherwise PySpike will use the much slower Python implementations.

To install PySpike, simply download the source, e.g. from Github, and run the setup.py script:

git clone https://github.com/mariomulansky/PySpike.git
cd PySpike
python setup.py build_ext --inplace

Then you can run the tests using the nosetests test framework:

nosetests

Finally, you should make PySpike’s installation folder known to Python to be able to import pyspike in your own projects. Therefore, add your /path/to/PySpike to the $PYTHONPATH environment variable.

Examples

The following code loads some exemplary spike trains, computes the dissimilarity profile of the ISI-distance of the first two SpikeTrain objects, and plots it with matplotlib:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import pyspike as spk

spike_trains = spk.load_spike_trains_from_txt("PySpike_testdata.txt",
                                              edges=(0, 4000))
isi_profile = spk.isi_profile(spike_trains[0], spike_trains[1])
x, y = isi_profile.get_plottable_data()
plt.plot(x, y, '--k')
print("ISI distance: %.8f" % isi_profile.avrg())
plt.show()

The following example computes the multivariate ISI-, SPIKE- and SPIKE-Sync-profile for a list of spike trains loaded from a text file:

spike_trains = spk.load_spike_trains_from_txt("PySpike_testdata.txt",
                                              edges=(0, 4000))
avrg_isi_profile = spk.isi_profile(spike_trains)
avrg_spike_profile = spk.spike_profile(spike_trains)
avrg_spike_sync_profile = spk.spike_sync_profile(spike_trains)

More examples with detailed descriptions can be found in the tutorial section.


The work on PySpike was supported by the European Comission through the Marie Curie Initial Training Network Neural Engineering Transformative Technologies (NETT) under the project number 289146.

Python/C Programming:
  • Mario Mulansky
Scientific Methods:
  • Thomas Kreuz
  • Daniel Chicharro
  • Conor Houghton
  • Nebojsa Bozanic
  • Mario Mulansky

Tutorial

Spike trains

In PySpike, spike trains are represented by SpikeTrain objects. A SpikeTrain object consists of the spike times given as numpy arrays as well as the edges of the spike train as [t_start, t_end]. The following code creates such a spike train with some arbitrary spike times:

import numpy as np
from pyspike import SpikeTrain

spike_train = SpikeTrain(np.array([0.1, 0.3, 0.45, 0.6, 0.9], [0.0, 1.0]))

Loading from text files

Typically, spike train data is loaded into PySpike from data files. The most straight-forward data files are text files where each line represents one spike train given as an sequence of spike times. An exemplary file with several spike trains is PySpike_testdata.txt. To quickly obtain spike trains from such files, PySpike provides the function load_spike_trains_from_txt().

import numpy as np
import pyspike as spk

spike_trains = spk.load_spike_trains_from_txt("SPIKY_testdata.txt",
                                              edges=(0, 4000))

This function expects the name of the data file as first parameter. Furthermore, the time interval of the spike train measurement (edges of the spike trains) should be provided as a pair of start- and end-time values. Furthermore, the spike trains are sorted via np.sort (disable this feature by providing is_sorted=True as a parameter to the load function). As result, load_spike_trains_from_txt() returns a list of arrays containing the spike trains in the text file.

Computing bivariate distances profiles

Important note:


Spike trains are expected to be sorted! For performance reasons, the PySpike distance functions do not check if the spike trains provided are indeed sorted. Make sure that all your spike trains are sorted, which is ensured if you use the load_spike_trains_from_txt() function with the parameter is_sorted=False (default). If in doubt, use SpikeTrain.sort() to ensure a correctly sorted spike train.

If you need to copy a spike train, use the SpikeTrain.copy() method. Simple assignment t2 = t1 does not create a copy of the spike train data, but a reference as numpy.array is used for storing the data.


ISI-distance

The following code loads some exemplary spike trains, computes the dissimilarity profile of the ISI-distance of the first two SpikeTrain s, and plots it with matplotlib:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import pyspike as spk

spike_trains = spk.load_spike_trains_from_txt("PySpike_testdata.txt",
                                              edges=(0, 4000))
isi_profile = spk.isi_profile(spike_trains[0], spike_trains[1])
x, y = isi_profile.get_plottable_data()
plt.plot(x, y, '--k')
print("ISI distance: %.8f" % isi_profile.avrg())
plt.show()

The ISI-profile is a piece-wise constant function, and hence the function isi_profile() returns an instance of the PieceWiseConstFunc class. As shown above, this class allows you to obtain arrays that can be used to plot the function with plt.plt, but also to compute the time average, which amounts to the final scalar ISI-distance. By default, the time average is computed for the whole PieceWiseConstFunc function. However, it is also possible to obtain the average of a specific interval by providing a pair of floats defining the start and end of the interval. For the above example, the following code computes the ISI-distances obtained from averaging the ISI-profile over four different intervals:

isi1 = isi_profile.avrg(interval=(0, 1000))
isi2 = isi_profile.avrg(interval=(1000, 2000))
isi3 = isi_profile.avrg(interval=[(0, 1000), (2000, 3000)])
isi4 = isi_profile.avrg(interval=[(1000, 2000), (3000, 4000)])

Note, how also multiple intervals can be supplied by giving a list of tuples.

If you are only interested in the scalar ISI-distance and not the profile, you can simply use:

isi_dist = spk.isi_distance(spike_trains[0], spike_trains[1], interval=(0, 1000))

where interval is optional, as above, and if omitted the ISI-distance is computed for the complete spike train.

SPIKE-distance

To compute for the spike distance profile you use the function spike_profile() instead of isi_profile above. But the general approach is very similar:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import pyspike as spk

spike_trains = spk.load_spike_trains_from_txt("PySpike_testdata.txt",
                                              edges=(0, 4000))
spike_profile = spk.spike_profile(spike_trains[0], spike_trains[1])
x, y = spike_profile.get_plottable_data()
plt.plot(x, y, '--k')
print("SPIKE distance: %.8f" % spike_profile.avrg())
plt.show()

This short example computes and plots the SPIKE-profile of the first two spike trains in the file PySpike_testdata.txt.

In contrast to the ISI-profile, a SPIKE-profile is a piece-wise linear function and is therefore represented by a PieceWiseLinFunc object. Just like the PieceWiseConstFunc for the ISI-profile, the PieceWiseLinFunc provides a PieceWiseLinFunc.get_plottable_data() member function that returns arrays that can be used directly to plot the function. Furthermore, the PieceWiseLinFunc.avrg() member function returns the average of the profile defined as the overall SPIKE distance. As above, you can provide an interval as a pair of floats as well as a sequence of such pairs to avrg to specify the averaging interval if required.

Again, you can use:

spike_dist = spk.spike_distance(spike_trains[0], spike_trains[1], interval=ival)

to compute the SPIKE distance directly, if you are not interested in the profile at all. The parameter interval is optional and if neglected the whole time interval is used.

SPIKE synchronization

Important note:


SPIKE-Synchronization measures similarity. That means, a value of zero indicates absence of synchrony, while a value of one denotes the presence of synchrony. This is exactly opposite to the other two measures: ISI- and SPIKE-distance.

SPIKE synchronization is another approach to measure spike synchrony. In contrast to the SPIKE- and ISI-distance, it measures similarity instead of dissimilarity, i.e. higher values represent larger synchrony. Another difference is that the SPIKE synchronization profile is only defined exactly at the spike times, not for the whole interval of the spike trains. Therefore, it is represented by a DiscreteFunction.

To compute for the spike synchronization profile, PySpike provides the function spike_sync_profile(). The general handling of the profile, however, is similar to the other profiles above:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import pyspike as spk

spike_trains = spk.load_spike_trains_from_txt("PySpike_testdata.txt",
                                              edges=(0, 4000))
spike_profile = spk.spike_sync_profile(spike_trains[0], spike_trains[1])
x, y = spike_profile.get_plottable_data()

For the direct computation of the overall spike synchronization value within some interval, the spike_sync() function can be used:

spike_sync = spk.spike_sync(spike_trains[0], spike_trains[1], interval=ival)

Computing multivariate profiles and distances

To compute the multivariate ISI-profile, SPIKE-profile or SPIKE-Synchronization profile for a set of spike trains, simply provide a list of spike trains to the profile or distance functions. The following example computes the multivariate ISI-, SPIKE- and SPIKE-Sync-profile for a list of spike trains:

spike_trains = spk.load_spike_trains_from_txt("PySpike_testdata.txt",
                                              edges=(0, 4000))
avrg_isi_profile = spk.isi_profile(spike_trains)
avrg_spike_profile = spk.spike_profile(spike_trains)
avrg_spike_sync_profile = spk.spike_sync_profile(spike_trains)

All functions also take an optional parameter indices, a list of indices that allows to define the spike trains that should be used for the multivariate profile. As before, if you are only interested in the distance values, and not in the profile, you can call the functions: isi_distance(), spike_distance() and spike_sync() with a list of spike trains. They return the scalar overall multivariate ISI-, SPIKE-distance or the SPIKE-Synchronization value.

The following code is equivalent to the bivariate example above, computing the ISI-Distance between the first two spike trains in the given interval using the indices parameter:

isi_dist = spk.isi_distance(spike_trains, indices=[0, 1], interval=(0, 1000))

As you can see, the distance functions also accept an interval parameter that can be used to specify the begin and end of the averaging interval as a pair of floats, if neglected the complete interval is used.

Note:


Instead of providing lists of spike trains to the profile or distance functions, you can also call those functions with many spike trains as (unnamed) parameters, e.g.:

# st1, st2, st3, st4 are spike trains
spike_prof = spk.spike_profile(st1, st2, st3, st4)

Another option to characterize large sets of spike trains are distance matrices. Each entry in the distance matrix represents a bivariate distance (similarity for SPIKE-Synchronization) of two spike trains. The distance matrix is symmetric and has zero values (ones) at the diagonal and is computed with the functions isi_distance_matrix(), spike_distance_matrix() and spike_sync_matrix(). The following example computes and plots the ISI- and SPIKE-distance matrix as well as the SPIKE-Synchronization-matrix, with different intervals.

spike_trains = spk.load_spike_trains_from_txt("PySpike_testdata.txt", 4000)

plt.figure()
isi_distance = spk.isi_distance_matrix(spike_trains)
plt.imshow(isi_distance, interpolation='none')
plt.title("ISI-distance")

plt.figure()
spike_distance = spk.spike_distance_matrix(spike_trains, interval=(0,1000))
plt.imshow(spike_distance, interpolation='none')
plt.title("SPIKE-distance")

plt.figure()
spike_sync = spk.spike_sync_matrix(spike_trains, interval=(2000,4000))
plt.imshow(spike_sync, interpolation='none')
plt.title("SPIKE-Sync")

plt.show()

Indices and tables