Getting Started

The drcme package has several functions and scripts for the analysis and clustering of electrophysiological and morphological data. For certain electrophysiological analyses, it is designed to work with data processed by the IPFX package.

There are several scripts provided for common tasks that expect JSON files as inputs. These could be used as-is or customized for your own analysis needs.

Sparse principal component analysis

This package has several functions and scripts for performing a variant of principal component analysis that incorporates a sparseness penalty. There is a provided script (drcme.bin.run_spca_fit) that is designed to work with “feature vector” files processed by another software package, IPFX. In particular, the IPFX script run_feature_vector_extraction script produces an HDF5 file as its output, which serves as the main input to drcme.bin.run_spca_fit.

The scripts in this package frequently use the argschema package to define their inputs. This allows inputs to be specified either as command line arguments or bundled into a JSON input file. For this guide, we will use the latter method (note that you can actually use a combination of the two methods as well).

We will assume that we processed electrophysiology data with IPFX and have an HDF5 file already created (my_feature_vectors.h5). We can look at the documentation for drcme.bin.run_spca_fit and see that it can take several parameters. There are parameters for performing the sPCA and where to save outputs, and there are other (nested) parameters for the datasets used by the analysis. Here, we are only using a single HDF5 file as input, so we only need to use set of the latter parameters, but you can use multiple files as sources if needed.

Many of the dataset-related parameters are options for filtering the data from the HDF5 file so that you can perform sPCA on a subset of cells. However, in this example, we will use all the cells, so we not need to worry about them here. The file ends up looking like:

    "params_file": "/path/to/specific/spca_params.json",
    "output_dir": "example_output_dir",
    "output_code": "EXAMPLE",
    "datasets": [
            "fv_h5_file": "/path/to/my_feature_vectors.h5"

The parameter params_file is the path to another JSON file that specifically configures the sparse principal component analysis. It is often shared between analyses of different data sets (it more relates to the form of the HDF5 file and what types of protocols you want to analyze), so it is separated out.

The expected format of that file is described in the function that loads it, drcme.load_data.define_spca_parameters(). Here, we will use a simplified version that just analyzes two types of data in the example HDF5 file - the AP waveform (first_ap_v) and the shape of the interspike interval (isi_shape). That configuration looks like this:

    "first_ap_v": {
        "n_components": 7,
        "nonzero_component_list": [267, 233, 267, 233, 233, 250, 233],
        "use_corr": false,
        "range": [0, 300]
    "isi_shape": {
        "n_components": 4,
        "nonzero_component_list": [100, 90, 80, 80],
        "use_corr": false,
        "range": null

The keys in this file must match those found in the HDF5 file, so the ones used here are a subset of those produced by the IPFX script. You can copy and modify that script if you want to analyze other types of electrophysiological data. For each type of data, we specify the number of components to keep for the sparse PCA (n_components) as well as the number of non-zero loadings for that component (nonzero_component_list). The length of nonzero_component_list should equal n_components. These values will depend on the data set and trade off things like the amount of explained variance for sparseness; you may need to do some trial-and-error for your own data. The option use_corr is a boolean value that specifies whether all the columns of the data matrix should be scaled by their standard deviation – in this case we set it to false because all the values within each data set are on the same scale (since they are time series of membrane voltage). Finally, the range parameter indicates what section of the data set should be used. For isi_shape, we will use the entire thing, so we can leave range with a value of null. For first_ap_v, the traces produced by IPFX are the concatenation of three 150-point-long traces of the first action potentials evoked by a short-square current pulse, a long-square current pulse, and a ramp current. However, the ramp current sometimes fails to elicit an action potential (for biological reasons), so we may not want to use it here (because some cells will have all zeroes for that value, which is a very strong signal that could distort the analysis). Therefore, we only want the first 300 points of the data (from 0 up to but not including 300) to leave the ramp AP waveform out. If we wanted just the first and last AP waveforms, excluding the middle, we would give the range parameter a value of [0, 150, 300, 450].

Now that the inputs are specified, we can run the script simply as follows:

$ python -m drcme.bin.run_spca_fit --input_json my_spca_input.json

Note that you can see messages about progress by setting the log_level parameter to INFO; otherwise those messages are suppressed by default. At the end, we will have files in example_output_dir called sparse_pca_components_EXAMPLE.csv (containing the transformed, z-scored sPCA values), spca_components_use_EXAMPLE.json (which indicates which components were kept), and spca_loadings_EXAMPLE.pkl which contains the loadings as well as explained variance information. The file sparse_pca_components_EXAMPLE.csv is in a format used by other clustering procedures in the package.

Electrophysiology and morphology clustering

The script drcme.bin.run_ephys_morph_clustering performs a joint clustering of electrophysiology and morphology data. It takes the strategy of performing multiple variations of clustering algorithms (with several parameter sets) and then finding consensus clusterings using all those results together. It also performs a cluster stability analysis via subsampling.

The main things we need to specific to use the script are the electrophysiology and morphology data files. We also need to give the script the paths for the various output files, including the cluster labels (cluster_labels_file), the specimen IDs of the cells analyzed (specimen_id_file, since only cells that are found in both data files are used), the cell-wise co-clustering matrix (cocluster_matrix_file), and an ordering of cells that puts cells in the same cluster together (ordering_file). The cells in the cluster_labels_file and cocluster_matrix_file are in the same order as the specimen_id_file. The jacccards_file contains the Jaccard coefficients for each cluster, which are an indication of their stability.

With that in mind, we can structure our input JSON file as follows:

    "ephys_file": "/path/to/ephys_data.csv",
    "morph_file": "/path/to/morph_data.csv",
    "specimen_id_file": "/path/to/output/specimen_ids.txt",
    "cluster_labels_file": "/path/to/output/cluster_labels.csv",
    "cocluster_matrix_file": "/path/to/output/coclustering_matrix.txt",
    "ordering_file": "/path/to/output/ordering.txt",
    "jaccards_file": "/path/to/output/jaccards.txt",

And then we can run the script like:

$ python -m drcme.bin.run_ephys_morph_clustering --input_json my_me_clustering_input.json

If you do find that you have unstable clusters that perhaps should be folded into other stable clusters, there is an additional script drcme.bin.run_refine_unstable_coclusters that can be used for that.