Decision Making Journal Club

The Relationship between Perceptual Decision Variables and Confidence in the Human Brain

Perceptual confidence refers to the degree to which we believe in the accuracy of our percepts. Signal detection theory suggests that perceptual confidence is computed from an internal “decision variable,” which reflects the amount of available information in favor of one or another perceptual interpretation of the sensory input. The neural processes underlying these computations have, however, remained elusive. Here, we used fMRI and multivariate decoding techniques to identify regions of the human brain that encode this decision variable and confidence during a visual motion discrimination task. We used observers' binary perceptual choices and confidence ratings to reconstruct the internal decision variable that governed the subjects' behavior. A number of areas in prefrontal and posterior parietal association cortex encoded this decision variable, and activity in the ventral striatum reflected the degree of perceptual confidence. Using a multivariate connectivity analysis, we demonstrate that patterns of brain activity in the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex reflecting the decision variable were linked to brain signals in the ventral striatum reflecting confidence. Our results suggest that the representation of perceptual confidence in the ventral striatum is derived from a transformation of the continuous decision variable encoded in the cerebral cortex.