On the use of Bayesian methods for evaluating compartmental neural models

Pierre Baldi, Michael C. Vanier, James M. Bower

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Computational modeling is being used increasingly in neuroscience. In deriving such models, inference issues such as model selection, model complexity, and model comparison must be addressed constantly. In this article we present briefly the Bayesian approach to inference. Under a simple set of commonsense axioms, there exists essentially a unique way of reasoning under uncertainty by assigning a degree of confidence to any hypothesis or model, given the available data and prior information. Such degrees of confidence must obey all the rules governing probabilities and can be updated accordingly as more data becomes available. While the Bayesian methodology can be applied to any type of model, as an example we outline its use for an important, and increasingly standard, class of models in computational neuroscience - compartmental models of single neurons. Inference issues are particularly relevant for these models: their parameter spaces are typically very large, neurophysiological and neuroanatomical data are still sparse, and probabilistic aspects are often ignored. As a tutorial, we demonstrate the Bayesian approach on a class of one-compartment models with varying numbers of conductances. We then apply Bayesian methods on a compartmental model of a real neuron to determine the optimal amount of noise to add to the model to give it a level of spike time variability comparable to that found in the real cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-314
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Computational Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian
  • Compartmental model
  • Model comparison

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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