Decision-making behavior is often characterized by substantial variability, but its source remains unclear. We developed a visual accumulation of evidence task designed to quantify sources of noise and to be performed during voluntary head restraint, enabling cellular resolution imaging in future studies. Rats accumulated discrete numbers of flashes presented to the left and right visual hemifields and indicated the side that had the greater number of flashes. Using a signal-detection theory-based model, we found that the standard deviation in their internal estimate of flash number scaled linearly with the number of flashes. This indicates a major source of noise that, surprisingly, is not consistent with the widely used 'drift-diffusion modeling' (DDM) approach but is instead closely related to proposed models of numerical cognition and counting. We speculate that this form of noise could be important in accumulation of evidence tasks generally.
Animal experimentation: Animal use procedures were approved by the Princeton University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) (Protocol #1837 and #1853). These procedures were carried out in accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health.
- Naoshige Uchida, Harvard University, United States
© 2015, Scott et al.
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The automatic initiation of actions can be highly functional. But occasionally these actions cannot be withheld and are released at inappropriate times, impulsively. Striatal activity has been shown to participate in the timing of action sequence initiation and it has been linked to impulsivity. Using a self-initiated task, we trained adult male rats to withhold a rewarded action sequence until a waiting time interval has elapsed. By analyzing neuronal activity we show that the striatal response preceding the initiation of the learned sequence is strongly modulated by the time subjects wait before eliciting the sequence. Interestingly, the modulation is steeper in adolescent rats, which show a strong prevalence of impulsive responses compared to adults. We hypothesize this anticipatory striatal activity reflects the animals’ subjective reward expectation, based on the elapsed waiting time, while the steeper waiting modulation in adolescence reflects age-related differences in temporal discounting, internal urgency states, or explore–exploit balance.
How dynamic interactions between nervous system regions in mammals performs online motor control remains an unsolved problem. In this paper, we show that feedback control is a simple, yet powerful way to understand the neural dynamics of sensorimotor control. We make our case using a minimal model comprising spinal cord, sensory and motor cortex, coupled by long connections that are plastic. It succeeds in learning how to perform reaching movements of a planar arm with 6 muscles in several directions from scratch. The model satisfies biological plausibility constraints, like neural implementation, transmission delays, local synaptic learning and continuous online learning. Using differential Hebbian plasticity the model can go from motor babbling to reaching arbitrary targets in less than 10 min of in silico time. Moreover, independently of the learning mechanism, properly configured feedback control has many emergent properties: neural populations in motor cortex show directional tuning and oscillatory dynamics, the spinal cord creates convergent force fields that add linearly, and movements are ataxic (as in a motor system without a cerebellum).