Decision Making Journal Club

Decision-Related Activity in Sensory Neurons May Depend on the Columnar Architecture of Cerebral Cortex

Many studies have reported correlations between the activity of sensory neurons and animals’ judgments in discrimination tasks. Here, we suggest that such neuron-behavior correlations may require a cortical map for the task relevant features. This would explain why studies using discrimination tasks based on disparity in area V1 have not found these correlations: V1 contains no map for disparity. This scheme predicts that activity of V1 neurons correlates with decisions in an orientation-discrimination task. To test this prediction, we trained two macaque monkeys in a coarse orientation discrimination task using band-pass-filtered dynamic noise. The two orientations were always 90° apart and task difficulty was controlled by varying the orientation bandwidth of the filter. While the trained animals performed this task, we recorded from orientation-selective V1 neurons (n82, n31 for Monkey 1,n51 for Monkey 2).For both monkeys, we observed significant correlation (quantified as “choice probabilities”) of the V1 activity with the monkeys’ perceptual judgments (mean choice probability 0.54, p 105 ). In one of these animals, we had previously measured choice probabilities in a disparity discrimination task in V1, which had been at chance (0.49, not significantly different from 0.5). The choice probabilities in this monkey for the orientation discrimination task were significantly larger than those for the disparity discrimination task (p 0.032). These results are predicted by our suggestion that choice probabilities are only observed for cortical sensory neurons that are organized in maps for the task-relevant feature.