Neural correlates of prior expectations of motion in the lateral intraparietal and middle temporal areas.

Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.
Journal of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.91). 07/2012; 32(29):10063-74. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5948-11.2012
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Successful decision making involves combining observations of the external world with prior knowledge. Recent studies suggest that neural activity in macaque lateral intraparietal area (LIP) provides a useful window into this process. This study examines how rapidly changing prior knowledge about an upcoming sensory stimulus influences the computations that convert sensory signals into plans for action. Two monkeys performed a cued direction discrimination task, in which an arrow cue presented at the start of each trial communicated the prior probability of the direction of stimulus motion. We hypothesized that the cue would either shift the initial level of LIP activity before sensory evidence arrived, or it would scale sensory responses according to the prior probability of each stimulus, manifesting as a change in slope of LIP firing rates. Neural recordings demonstrated a clear shift in the activity level of LIP neurons following the arrow cue, which persisted into the presentation of the motion stimulus. No significant change in slope of responses was observed, suggesting that sensory gain was not strongly modulated. To confirm the latter observation, middle temporal area (MT) neurons were recorded during a version of the cued direction discrimination task, and we found no change in MT responses resulting from the presentation of the directional cue. These results suggest that information about an immediately upcoming stimulus does not scale the sensory response, but rather changes the amount of evidence that must be accumulated to reach a decision in areas that are involved in planning action.

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May 29, 2014