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Nat Neurosci. 2008 Jun;11(6):693-702. doi: 10.1038/nn.2123. Epub 2008 May 18.

Decision-making with multiple alternatives.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Physiology and Biophysics, National Primate Research Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.

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  • Nat Neurosci. 2008 Jul;11(7):851.


Simple perceptual tasks have laid the groundwork for understanding the neurobiology of decision-making. Here, we examined this foundation to explain how decision-making circuitry adjusts in the face of a more difficult task. We measured behavioral and physiological responses of monkeys on a two- and four-choice direction-discrimination decision task. For both tasks, firing rates in the lateral intraparietal area appeared to reflect the accumulation of evidence for or against each choice. Evidence accumulation began at a lower firing rate for the four-choice task, but reached a common level by the end of the decision process. The larger excursion suggests that the subjects required more evidence before making a choice. Furthermore, on both tasks, we observed a time-dependent rise in firing rates that may impose a deadline for deciding. These physiological observations constitute an effective strategy for handling increased task difficulty. The differences appear to explain subjects' accuracy and reaction times.

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