Stimulus-choice (mis)alignment in primate area MT.
ABSTRACT: For stimuli near perceptual threshold, the trial-by-trial activity of single neurons in many sensory areas is correlated with the animal's perceptual report. This phenomenon has often been attributed to feedforward readout of the neural activity by the downstream decision-making circuits. The interpretation of choice-correlated activity is quite ambiguous, but its meaning can be better understood in the light of population-wide correlations among sensory neurons. Using a statistical nonlinear dimensionality reduction technique on single-trial ensemble recordings from the middle temporal (MT) area during perceptual-decision-making, we extracted low-dimensional latent factors that captured the population-wide fluctuations. We dissected the particular contributions of sensory-driven versus choice-correlated activity in the low-dimensional population code. We found that the latent factors strongly encoded the direction of the stimulus in single dimension with a temporal signature similar to that of single MT neurons. If the downstream circuit were optimally utilizing this information, choice-correlated signals should be aligned with this stimulus encoding dimension. Surprisingly, we found that a large component of the choice information resides in the subspace orthogonal to the stimulus representation inconsistent with the optimal readout view. This misaligned choice information allows the feedforward sensory information to coexist with the decision-making process. The time course of these signals suggest that this misaligned contribution likely is feedback from the downstream areas. We hypothesize that this non-corrupting choice-correlated feedback might be related to learning or reinforcing sensory-motor relations in the sensory population.
Project description:The brain transforms physical sensory stimuli into meaningful perceptions. In animals making choices about sensory stimuli, neuronal activity in successive cortical stages reflects a progression from sensation to decision. Feedforward and feedback pathways connecting cortical areas are critical for this transformation. However, the computational functions of these pathways are poorly understood because pathway-specific activity has rarely been monitored during a perceptual task. Using cellular-resolution, pathway-specific imaging, we measured neuronal activity across primary (S1) and secondary (S2) somatosensory cortices of mice performing a tactile detection task. S1 encoded the stimulus better than S2, while S2 activity more strongly reflected perceptual choice. S1 neurons projecting to S2 fed forward activity that predicted choice. Activity encoding touch and choice propagated in an S1-S2 loop along feedforward and feedback axons. Our results suggest that sensory inputs converge into a perceptual outcome as feedforward computations are reinforced in a feedback loop.
Project description:Understanding perceptual decision-making requires linking sensory neural responses to behavioral choices. In two-choice tasks, activity-choice covariations are commonly quantified with a single measure of choice probability (CP), without characterizing their changes across stimulus levels. We provide theoretical conditions for stimulus dependencies of activity-choice covariations. Assuming a general decision-threshold model, which comprises both feedforward and feedback processing and allows for a stimulus-modulated neural population covariance, we analytically predict a very general and previously unreported stimulus dependence of CPs. We develop new tools, including refined analyses of CPs and generalized linear models with stimulus-choice interactions, which accurately assess the stimulus- or choice-driven signals of each neuron, characterizing stimulus-dependent patterns of choice-related signals. With these tools, we analyze CPs of macaque MT neurons during a motion discrimination task. Our analysis provides preliminary empirical evidence for the promise of studying stimulus dependencies of choice-related signals, encouraging further assessment in wider data sets.
Project description:Perceptual decisions entail the accumulation of sensory evidence for a particular choice towards an action plan. An influential framework holds that sensory cortical areas encode the instantaneous sensory evidence and downstream, action-related regions accumulate this evidence. The large-scale distribution of this computation across the cerebral cortex has remained largely elusive. Here, we develop a regionally-specific magnetoencephalography decoding approach to exhaustively map the dynamics of stimulus- and choice-specific signals across the human cortical surface during a visual decision. Comparison with the evidence accumulation dynamics inferred from behavior disentangles stimulus-dependent and endogenous components of choice-predictive activity across the visual cortical hierarchy. We find such an endogenous component in early visual cortex (including V1), which is expressed in a low (<20?Hz) frequency band and tracks, with delay, the build-up of choice-predictive activity in (pre-) motor regions. Our results are consistent with choice- and frequency-specific cortical feedback signaling during decision formation.
Project description:Perceptual decision-making is biased by previous events, including the history of preceding choices: observers tend to repeat (or alternate) their judgments of the sensory environment more often than expected by chance. Computational models postulate that these so-called choice history biases result from the accumulation of internal decision signals across trials. Here, we provide psychophysical evidence for such a mechanism and its adaptive utility. Male and female human observers performed different variants of a challenging visual motion discrimination task near psychophysical threshold. In a first experiment, we decoupled categorical perceptual choices and motor responses on a trial-by-trial basis. Choice history bias was explained by previous perceptual choices, not motor responses, highlighting the importance of internal decision signals in action-independent formats. In a second experiment, observers performed the task in stimulus environments containing different levels of autocorrelation and providing no external feedback about choice correctness. Despite performing under overall high levels of uncertainty, observers adjusted both the strength and the sign of their choice history biases to these environments. When stimulus sequences were dominated by either repetitions or alternations, the individual degree of this adjustment of history bias was about as good a predictor of individual performance as individual perceptual sensitivity. The history bias adjustment scaled with two proxies for observers' confidence about their previous choices (accuracy and reaction time). Together, our results are consistent with the idea that action-independent, confidence-modulated decision variables are accumulated across choices in a flexible manner that depends on decision-makers' model of their environment.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Decisions based on sensory input are often influenced by the history of one's preceding choices, manifesting as a bias to systematically repeat (or alternate) choices. We here provide support for the idea that such choice history biases arise from the context-dependent accumulation of a quantity referred to as the decision variable: the variable's sign dictates the choice and its magnitude the confidence about choice correctness. We show that choices are accumulated in an action-independent format and a context-dependent manner, weighted by the confidence about their correctness. This confidence-weighted accumulation of choices enables decision-makers to flexibly adjust their behavior to different sensory environments. The bias adjustment can be as important for optimizing performance as one's sensitivity to the momentary sensory input.
Project description:A subject-specific process of perceptual decision making is of importance to how the brain translates its interpretation of sensory information into behavior. In particular, a number of studies reported substantial variation across the observers' decision behavior, which may reflect different profiles of evidence accumulated by each individual. However, a detailed profile of perceptual integration has not yet been verified from human behavioral data. To address the issue, we precisely measured the time course of sensory integration, as the "sensory integration kernel" of subjects, using a coherence-varying motion discrimination task. We found that each subject has a distinct profile of sensory integration. We observed that kernel size (maximum sensory integration interval) is consistent within subjects, independent of external stimuli conditions. The observed kernel could accurately predict subject-specific perceptual behaviors and explain the inter-individual variation of observed behaviors. Surprisingly, the performance of most subjects did not improve in proportion to increased duration of the stimulus, but was maximized when the stimulus duration matched their kernel size. We also found that the observed kernel size was strongly correlated with the subject-specific perceptual characteristics for illusory motion. Our results suggest that perceptual decisions arise from intrinsic decision dynamics, and on individual timescales of sensory integration.
Project description:Perceptual decisions arise after considering the available sensory evidence . When sensory information is unreliable, a good strategy is to rely on previous experience in similar situations to guide decisions [2-6]. It is well known that patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) are impaired at value-based decision-making [7-11]. How patients combine past experience and sensory information to make perceptual decisions is unknown. We developed a novel, perceptual decision-making task and manipulated the statistics of the sensory stimuli presented to patients with PD and healthy participants to determine the influence of past experience on decision-making. We show that patients with PD are impaired at combining previously learned information with current sensory information to guide decisions. We modeled the results using the drift-diffusion model (DDM) and found that the impairment corresponds to a failure in adjusting the amount of sensory evidence needed to make a decision. Our modeling results also show that two complementary mechanisms operate to implement a bias when two sets of priors are learned concurrently. Asymmetric decision threshold adjustments, as reflected by changes in the starting point of evidence accumulation, are responsible for a general choice bias, whereas the adjustment of a dynamic bias that develops over the course of a trial, as reflected by a drift-rate offset, provides the stimulus-specific component of the prior. A proper interplay between these two processes is required to implement a bias based on concurrent, stimulus-specific priors in decision-making. We show here that patients with PD are impaired in these across-trial decision threshold adjustments.
Project description:Insights from causal manipulations of brain activity depend on targeting the spatial and temporal scales most relevant for behavior. Using a sensitive perceptual decision task in monkeys, we examined the effects of rapid, reversible inactivation on a spatial scale previously achieved only with electrical microstimulation. Inactivating groups of similarly tuned neurons in area MT produced systematic effects on choice and confidence. Behavioral effects were attenuated over the course of each session, suggesting compensatory adjustments in the downstream readout of MT over tens of minutes. Compensation also occurred on a sub-second time scale: behavior was largely unaffected when the visual stimulus (and concurrent suppression) lasted longer than 350 ms. These trends were similar for choice and confidence, consistent with the idea of a common mechanism underlying both measures. The findings demonstrate the utility of hyperpolarizing opsins for linking neural population activity at fine spatial and temporal scales to cognitive functions in primates.
Project description:In perceptual decision-making tasks the activity of neurons in frontal and posterior parietal cortices covaries more with perceptual reports than with the physical properties of stimuli. This relationship is revealed when subjects have to make behavioral choices about weak or uncertain stimuli. If knowledge about stimulus onset time is available, decision making can be based on accumulation of sensory evidence. However, the time of stimulus onset or even its very presence is often ambiguous. By analyzing firing rates and correlated variability of frontal lobe neurons while monkeys perform a vibrotactile detection task, we show that behavioral outcomes are crucially affected by the state of cortical networks before stimulus onset times. The results suggest that sensory detection is partly due to a purely internal signal whereas the stimulus, if finally applied, adds a contribution to this initial processing later on. The probability to detect or miss the stimulus can thus be explained as the combined effect of this variable internal signal and the sensory evidence.
Project description:Noise correlations (that is, trial-to-trial covariations in neural activity for a given stimulus) limit the stimulus information encoded by neural populations, leading to the widely held prediction that they impair perceptual discrimination behaviors. However, this prediction neglects the effects of correlations on information readout. We studied how correlations affect both encoding and readout of sensory information. We analyzed calcium imaging data from mouse posterior parietal cortex during two perceptual discrimination tasks. Correlations reduced the encoded stimulus information, but, seemingly paradoxically, were higher when mice made correct rather than incorrect choices. Single-trial behavioral choices depended not only on the stimulus information encoded by the whole population, but unexpectedly also on the consistency of information across neurons and time. Because correlations increased information consistency, they enhanced the conversion of sensory information into behavioral choices, overcoming their detrimental information-limiting effects. Thus, correlations in association cortex can benefit task performance even if they decrease sensory information.
Project description:In perceptual decision-making, prior knowledge of action outcomes is essential, especially when sensory inputs are insufficient for proper choices. Signal detection theory (SDT) shows that optimal choice bias depends not only on the prior but also the sensory uncertainty; however, it is unclear how animals integrate sensory inputs with various uncertainties and reward expectations to optimize choices. We developed a tone-frequency discrimination task for head-fixed mice in which we randomly presented either a long or short sound stimulus and biased the choice outcomes. The choice was less accurate and more biased toward the large-reward side in short- than in long-stimulus trials. Analysis with SDT found that mice did not use a separate, optimal choice threshold in different sound durations. Instead, mice updated one threshold for short and long stimuli with a simple reinforcement-learning rule. Our task in head-fixed mice helps understanding how the brain integrates sensory inputs and prior.