Decision Making

A general mechanism for perceptual decision-making in the human brain - Findings from single-cell recording studies suggest that a comparison of the outputs of different pools of selectively tuned lower-level sensory neurons may be a general mechanism by which higher-level brain regions compute perceptual decisions. For example, when monkeys must decide whether a noisy field of dots is moving upward or downward, a decision can be formed by computing the difference in responses between lower-level neurons sensitive to upward motion and those sensitive to downward motion[1-4]. Here we use functional magnetic resonance imaging and a categorization task in which subjects decide whether an image presented is a face or a house to test whether a similar mechanism is also at work for more complex decisions in the human brain and, if so, where in the brain this computation might be performed. Activity within the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is greater during easy decisions than during difficult decisions, covaries with the difference signal between face- and house-selective regions in the ventral temporal cortex, and predicts behavioural performance in the categorization task. These findings show that even for complex object categories, the comparison of the outputs of different pools of selectively tuned neurons could be a general mechanism by which the human brain computes perceptual decisions.

A Role for Neural Integrators in Perceptual Decision Making - Decisions based on uncertain information may benefit from an accumulation of information over time. We asked whether such an accumulation process may underlie decisions about the direction of motion in a random dot kinetogram. To address this question we developed a computational model of the decision process using ensembles of neurons whose spiking activity mimics neurons recorded in the extrastriate visual cortex (area MT or V5) and a sensorimotor association area of the parietal lobe (area LIP). The model instantiates the hypothesis that neurons in sensorimotor association areas compute the time integral of sensory signals from the visual cortex, construed as evidence for or against a proposition, and that the decision is made when the integrated evidence reaches a threshold. The model explains a variety of behavioral and physiological measurements obtained from monkeys.

Flutter discrimination: neural codes, perception, memory and decision making - Recent studies combining psychophysical and neurophysiological experiments in behaving monkeys have provided new insights into how several cortical areas integrate efforts to solve a vibrotactile discrimination task. In particular, these studies have addressed how neural codes are related to perception, working memory and decision making in this model. The primary somatosensory cortex drives higher cortical areas where past and current sensory information are combined, such that a comparison of the two evolves into a behavioural decision. These and other observations in visual tasks indicate that decisions emerge from highly-distributed processes in which the details of a scheduled motor plan are gradually specified by sensory information.

The Time Course of Visual Processing: From Early Perception to Decision-Making - Experiments investigating the mechanisms involved in visual processing often fail to separate low-level encoding mechanisms from higher-level behaviorally relevant ones. Using an alternating dual-task event-related potential (ERP) experimental paradigm (animals or vehicles categorization) where targets of one task are intermixed among distractors of the other, we show that visual categorization of a natural scene involves different mechanisms with different time courses: a perceptual, task-independent mechanism, followed by a task-related, category-independent process. Although average ERP responses reflect the visual category of the stimulus shortly after visual processing has begun (e.g. 75-80 msec), this difference is not correlated with the subject's behavior until 150 msec poststimulus.

Neural Representation of Task Difficulty and Decision Making during Perceptual Categorization: A Timing Diagram - When does the brain know that a decision is difficult to make? How does decision difficulty affect the allocation of neural resources and timing of constituent cortical processing? Here, we use single-trial analysis of electroencephalography (EEG) to identify neural correlates of decision difficulty and relate these to neural correlates of decision accuracy. Using a cued paradigm, we show that we can identify a component in the EEG that reflects the inherent task difficulty and not simply a correlation with the stimulus. We find that this decision difficulty component arises 220 ms after stimulus presentation, between two EEG components that are predictive of decision accuracy [an "early" (170 ms) and a "late" (300 ms) component]. We use these results to develop a timing diagram for perceptual decision making and relate the component activities to parameters of a diffusion model for decision making.

The Cognitive Neuroscience of Human Decision Making: A Review and Conceptual Framework - Decision making, the process of choosing between options, is a fundamental human behavior that has been studied intensively by disciplines ranging from cognitive psychology to economics. Despite the importance of this behavior, the neural substrates of decision making are only beginning to be understood. Impaired decision making is recognized in neuropsychiatric conditions such as dementia and drug addiction, and the inconsistencies and biases of healthy decision makers have been intensively studied. However, the tools of cognitive neuroscience have only recently been applied to understanding the brain basis of this complex behavior. This article reviews the literature on the cognitive neuroscience of human decision making, focusing on the roles of the frontal lobes, and provides a conceptual framework for organizing this disparate body of work.

Decision Making News

Seeing at a glance, smelling in a whiff: rapid forms of perceptual decision making - Intuitively, decisions should always improve with more time for the accumulation of evidence, yet psychophysical data show a limit of 200–300 ms for many perceptual tasks. Here, we consider mechanisms that favour such rapid information processing in vision and olfaction. We suggest that the brain limits some types of perceptual processing to short, discrete chunks (for example, eye fixations and sniffs) in order to facilitate the construction of global sensory images.

Scientists Try to Predict Intentions where researchers at Berlin's Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience claim they have now, for the first time, identified people's decisions about how they would later do a high-level mental activity.

'Sleeping on it' best for complex decisions where Ap Dijksterhuis at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and colleagues recruited 80 people for a series of lab-based and “real-world” tests, suggesting that the conscious mind should be trusted only with simple decisions.

Neurobiology Of Dread Gives Scientists Clues About Human Decision Making where in order to better understand how people make decisions when the outcomes are known to be unpleasant, a team of Emory neuroscientists led by Gregory Berns, MD, PhD, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to determine the areas of the brain that are activated when someone experiences dread.

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