This paper is concerned with the analysis of observations made on a system that is being stimulated at fixed time intervals but where the precise nature and effect of any individual stimulus is unknown. The realized values are modelled as a stochastic process consisting of a random signal embedded in noise. The aim of the analysis is to use the data to unravel the unknown structure of the system and to ascertain the probabilistic behaviour of the stimuli. A method of parameter estimation based on quasi-profile likelihood is presented and the statistical properties of the estimates are established while recognizing that there will be a discrepancy between the model and the true data-generating mechanism. A method of model validation and determination is also advanced and kernel smoothing techniques are proposed as a basis for identifying the amplitude distribution of the stimuli. The data processing techniques described have a direct application to the investigation of excitatory post-synaptic currents recorded from nerve cells in the central nervous system and their use in quantal analysis of such data is illustrated.
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