Posterior parietal cortex guides visual decisions in rats

Licata, A. M., Kaufman, M. T., Raposo, D., Ryan, M. B., Sheppard, J. P., Churchland, A. K. (May 2017) Posterior parietal cortex guides visual decisions in rats. J Neurosci, 37 (19). pp. 4954-4966. ISSN 0270-6474

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DOI: 10.1523/jneurosci.0105-17.2017


Neurons in putative decision-making structures can reflect both sensory and decision signals, making their causal role in decisions unclear. Here, we tested whether rat posterior parietal cortex (PPC) is causal for processing visual sensory signals or instead for accumulating evidence for decision alternatives. We optogenetically disrupted PPC activity during decision-making and compared effects on decisions guided by auditory vs. visual evidence. Deficits were largely restricted to visual decisions. To further test for visual dominance in PPC, we evaluated electrophysiological responses following individual sensory events and observed much larger response modulation following visual stimuli than auditory stimuli. Finally, we measured trial-to-trial spike count variability during stimulus presentation and decision formation. Variability sharply decreased, suggesting the network is stabilized by inputs, unlike what would be expected if sensory signals were locally accumulated. Our findings argue that PPC plays a causal role in processing visual signals that are accumulated elsewhere.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTDefining the neural circuits that support decision-making bridges a gap between our understanding of simple sensorimotor reflexes and our understanding of truly complex behavior. However, identifying brain areas which play a causal role in decision-making has proved challenging. We tested the causal role of a candidate component of decision circuits, the rat posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Our interpretation of the data benefitted from our use of animals trained to make decisions guided by either visual or auditory evidence. Our results argue that PPC plays a causal role specifically in visual decision-making, and that PPC may support sensory aspects of the decision, such as interpreting the visual signals so that evidence for a decision can be accumulated elsewhere.

Item Type: Paper
Subjects: organism description > animal behavior > decision making
organs, tissues, organelles, cell types and functions > tissues types and functions > parietal cortex
organism description > animal behavior > vision
CSHL Authors:
Communities: CSHL labs > Churchland lab
Depositing User: Matt Covey
Date: 10 May 2017
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2017 20:34
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2017 20:39
PMCID: PMC5426183
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