A supervised machine learning approach to characterize spinal network function.
Dalrymple AN, Sharples SA, Osachoff N, Lognon AP, Whelan PJ
Spontaneous activity is a common feature of immature neuronal networks throughout the central nervous system and plays an important role in network development and consolidation. In postnatal rodents, spontaneous activity in the spinal cord exhibits complex, stochastic patterns that have historically proven challenging to characterize. We developed a software tool for quickly and automatically characterizing and classifying episodes of spontaneous activity generated from developing spinal networks. We recorded spontaneous activity from in vitro lumbar ventral roots of 16 neonatal [postnatal day (P)0-P3] mice. Recordings were DC coupled and detrended, and episodes were separated for analysis. Amplitude-, duration-, and frequency-related features were extracted from each episode and organized into five classes. Paired classes and features were used to train and test supervised machine learning algorithms. Multilayer perceptrons were used to classify episodes as rhythmic or multiburst. We increased network excitability with potassium chloride and tested the utility of the tool to detect changes in features and episode class. We also demonstrate usability by having a novel experimenter use the program to classify episodes collected at a later time point (P5). Supervised machine learning-based classification of episodes accounted for changes that traditional approaches cannot detect. Our tool, named SpontaneousClassification, advances the detail in which we can study not only developing spinal networks, but also spontaneous networks in other areas of the nervous system. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Spontaneous activity is important for nervous system network development and consolidation. Our software uses machine learning to automatically and quickly characterize and classify episodes of spontaneous activity in the spinal cord of newborn mice. It detected changes in network activity following KCl-enhanced excitation. Using our software to classify spontaneous activity throughout development, in pathological models, or with neuromodulation, may offer insight into the development and organization of spinal circuits.