Representation of an abstract perceptual decision in macaque superior colliculus
ABSTRACT We recorded from neurons in the intermediate and deep layers of the superior colliculus (SC) while monkeys performed a novel direction discrimination task. In contrast to the task we used previously, the new version required the monkey to dissociate perceptual judgments from preparation to execute specific operant saccades. The monkey discriminated between 2 opposed directions of motion in a random-dot motion stimulus and was required to maintain the decision in memory throughout a delay period before the target of the required operant saccade was revealed. We hypothesized that perceptual decisions made in this paradigm would be represented in an "abstract" or "categorical" form within the brain, probably in the frontal cortex, and that decision-related neural activity would be eliminated from spatially organized preoculomotor structures such as the SC. To our surprise, however, a small population of neurons in the intermediate and deep layers of the SC fired in a choice-specific manner early in the trial well before the monkey could plan the operant saccade. Furthermore, the representation of the decision during the delay period appeared to be spatial: the active region in the SC map corresponded to the region of space toward which the perceptually discriminated stimulus motion flowed. Electrical microstimulation experiments suggested that these decision-related SC signals were not merely related to covert saccade planning. We conclude that monkeys may employ, in part, a spatially referenced mnemonic strategy for representing perceptual decisions, even when an abstract, categorical representation might appear more likely a priori.
SourceAvailable from: Vincent FerreraNeuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 09/2014; · 10.28 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: The modern field of perceptual learning addresses improvements of sensory and perceptual functioning in adult observers and provides powerful tools to ameliorate the effects of neurological conditions that involve a sensory or attentional deficit. While the sensory systems were once thought to be plastic only during early development, modern research demonstrates a great deal of plasticity in the adult brain. Here we discuss the value of perceptual learning as a method to improve sensory and attentional function, with a brief overview of the current approaches in the field, including how perceptual learning can be highly specific to the training set, and also how new training approaches can overcome this specificity and transfer learning effects to untrained tasks. We discuss these in the context of extant applications of perceptual learning as a treatment for neurological conditions and how new knowledge mechanisms (including attention, exposure based learning, reinforcement learning and multisensory facilitation) that allow or restrict learning in the visual system can lead to enhanced treatment approaches. We suggest new approaches that integrate multiple mechanisms of perceptual learning that promise greater learning and more generalization to real world conditions.