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Elife. 2017 Apr 11;6. pii: e23232. doi: 10.7554/eLife.23232.

Dynamic modulation of decision biases by brainstem arousal systems.

Author information

1
Department of Neurophysiology and Pathophysiology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany.
2
Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
3
Amsterdam Brain & Cognition, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
4
Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany.
5
Department of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
6
Institute of Psychology, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Abstract

Decision-makers often arrive at different choices when faced with repeated presentations of the same evidence. Variability of behavior is commonly attributed to noise in the brain's decision-making machinery. We hypothesized that phasic responses of brainstem arousal systems are a significant source of this variability. We tracked pupil responses (a proxy of phasic arousal) during sensory-motor decisions in humans, across different sensory modalities and task protocols. Large pupil responses generally predicted a reduction in decision bias. Using fMRI, we showed that the pupil-linked bias reduction was (i) accompanied by a modulation of choice-encoding pattern signals in parietal and prefrontal cortex and (ii) predicted by phasic, pupil-linked responses of a number of neuromodulatory brainstem centers involved in the control of cortical arousal state, including the noradrenergic locus coeruleus. We conclude that phasic arousal suppresses decision bias on a trial-by-trial basis, thus accounting for a significant component of the variability of choice behavior.

KEYWORDS:

Accumulator model; Decision-making; Locus Coeruleus; Neuromodulation; Trial-to-trial variability; fMRI; human; neuroscience

PMID:
28383284
PMCID:
PMC5409827
DOI:
10.7554/eLife.23232
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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