Midbrain contributions to sensorimotor decision making

Felsen, G., Mainen, Z. F. (July 2012) Midbrain contributions to sensorimotor decision making. Journal of Neurophysiology, 108 (1). pp. 135-147. ISSN 0022-3077

URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22496524
DOI: 10.1152/jn.01181.2011


Felsen G, Mainen ZF. Midbrain contributions to sensorimotor decision making. J Neurophysiol 108: 135-147, 2012. First published April 11, 2012; doi:10.1152/jn.01181.2011.-Making decisions about future actions is a fundamental function of the nervous system. Classical theories hold that separate sets of brain regions are responsible for selecting and implementing an action. Traditionally, action selection has been considered the domain of high-level regions, such as the prefrontal cortex, whereas action generation is thought to be carried out by dedicated cortical and subcortical motor regions. However, increasing evidence suggests that the activity of individual neurons in cortical motor structures reflects abstract properties of "decision variables" rather than conveying simple motor commands. Less is known, though, about the role of subcortical structures in decision making. In particular, the superior colliculus (SC) is critical for planning and initiating visually guided, gaze-displacing movements and selecting visual targets, but whether and how it contributes more generally to sensorimotor decisions are unclear. Here, we show that the SC is intimately involved in orienting decisions based on odor cues, even though the SC does not explicitly process olfactory stimuli. Neurons were recorded from the intermediate and deep SC layers in rats trained to perform a delayed-response, odor-cued spatial choice task. SC neurons commonly fired well in advance of movement initiation, predicting the chosen direction nearly 1 s before movement. Moreover, under conditions of sensory uncertainty, SC activity varied with task difficulty and reward outcome, reflecting the influence of decision variables on the intercollicular competition thought to underlie orienting movements. These results indicate that the SC plays a more general role in decisions than previously appreciated, extending beyond visuomotor functions.

Item Type: Paper
Uncontrolled Keywords: olfactory-motor behavior action selection freely moving tetrode recording primate superior colliculus saccade target selection brightness-discrimination task perceptual decision neuronal-activity eye-movements direct projection substantia-nigra visual responses parietal cortex
Subjects: organism description > animal behavior
organism description > animal behavior > decision making
organs, tissues, organelles, cell types and functions > tissues types and functions > midbrain
organs, tissues, organelles, cell types and functions
organs, tissues, organelles, cell types and functions > tissues types and functions
CSHL Authors:
Communities: CSHL labs > Mainen lab
Depositing User: Matt Covey
Date: July 2012
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2013 19:53
Last Modified: 31 Jan 2013 19:53
PMCID: PMC3434602
Related URLs:
URI: https://repository.cshl.edu/id/eprint/26939

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