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J Neurosci. 2010 May 26;30(21):7434-46. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0455-10.2010.

Perceptual decisions formed by accumulation of audiovisual evidence in prefrontal cortex.

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Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tübingen, Germany.


To form perceptual decisions in our multisensory environment, the brain needs to integrate sensory information derived from a common source and segregate information emanating from different sources. Combining fMRI and psychophysics in humans, we investigated how the brain accumulates sensory evidence about a visual source in the context of congruent or conflicting auditory information. In a visual selective attention paradigm, subjects (12 females, 7 males) categorized video clips while ignoring concurrent congruent or incongruent soundtracks. Visual and auditory information were reliable or unreliable. Our behavioral data accorded with accumulator models of perceptual decision making, where sensory information is integrated over time until a criterion amount of information is obtained. Behaviorally, subjects exhibited audiovisual incongruency effects that increased with the variance of the visual and the reliability of the interfering auditory input. At the neural level, only the left inferior frontal sulcus (IFS) showed an "audiovisual-accumulator" profile consistent with the observed reaction time pattern. By contrast, responses in the right fusiform were amplified by incongruent auditory input regardless of sensory reliability. Dynamic causal modeling showed that these incongruency effects were mediated via connections from auditory cortex. Further, while the fusiform interacted with IFS in an excitatory recurrent loop that was strengthened for unreliable task-relevant visual input, the IFS did not amplify and even inhibited superior temporal activations for unreliable auditory input. To form decisions that guide behavioral responses, the IFS may accumulate audiovisual evidence by dynamically weighting its connectivity to auditory and visual regions according to sensory reliability and decisional relevance.

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