Rapidly developing technology for large scale neural recordings has allowed researchers to measure the activity of hundreds to thousands of neurons at single cell resolution in vivo. Neural decoding analyses are a widely used tool used for investigating what information is represented in this complex, high-dimensional neural population activity. Most population decoding methods assume that correlated activity between neurons has been estimated accurately. In practice, this requires large amounts of data, both across observations and across neurons. Unfortunately, most experiments are fundamentally constrained by practical variables that limit the number of times the neural population can be observed under a single stimulus and/or behavior condition. Therefore, new analytical tools are required to study neural population coding while taking into account these limitations. Here, we present a simple and interpretable method for dimensionality reduction that allows neural decoding metrics to be calculated reliably, even when experimental trial numbers are limited. We illustrate the method using simulations and compare its performance to standard approaches for dimensionality reduction and decoding by applying it to single-unit electrophysiological data collected from auditory cortex.
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