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Neuron. 2013 Apr 24;78(2):249-55. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2013.02.006.

Neural variability in premotor cortex is modulated by trial history and predicts behavioral performance.

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Laboratory of Synthetic Perceptive, Emotive and Cognitive Systems-SPECS, Center for Autonomous Systems and Neuro-Robotics-N-RAS, Technology Department, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Roc Boronat 138, 08018 Barcelona, Spain.


In the study of decision making, emphasis is placed on different forms of perceptual integration, while the influence of other factors, such as memory, is ignored. In addition, it is believed that the information underlying decision making is carried in the rate of the neuronal response, while its variability is considered unspecific. Here we studied the influence of recent experience on motor decision making by analyzing the activity of neurons in the dorsal premotor area of two monkeys performing a countermanding arm task. We observe that the across-trial variability of the neural response strongly correlates with trial history-dependent changes in reaction time. Using a theoretical model of decision making, we show that a trial history-monitoring signal can explain the observed behavioral and neural modulation. Our study reveals that, in the neural processes that culminate in motor plan maturation, the evidence provided by perception and memory is reflected in mean rate and variance respectively.

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