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.
- Tobias H Donner
- Tobias H Donner
- Tobias H Donner
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: All subjects gave written informed consent, and consent to publish. The ethics committee of the Psychology Department of the University of Amsterdam approved the experiments (Id's: 2014-BC-3406; 2015-BC-4613; 2016-BC-6842).
- Klaas Enno Stephan, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Switzerland
© 2017, de Gee et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by selective vulnerability of distinct cell populations; however, the cause for this specificity remains elusive. Here we show that entorhinal cortex layer 2 (EC2) neurons are unusually vulnerable to prolonged neuronal inactivity compared with neighboring regions of the temporal lobe, and that reelin+ stellate cells connecting EC with the hippocampus are preferentially susceptible within the EC2 population. We demonstrate that neuronal death after silencing can be elicited through multiple independent means of activity inhibition, and that preventing synaptic release, either alone or in combination with electrical shunting, is sufficient to elicit silencing-induced degeneration. Finally, we discovered that degeneration following synaptic silencing is governed by competition between active and inactive cells, which is a circuit refinement process traditionally thought to end early in postnatal life. Our data suggests that the developmental window for wholesale circuit plasticity may extend into adulthood for specific brain regions. We speculate that this sustained potential for remodeling by entorhinal neurons may support lifelong memory but renders them vulnerable to prolonged activity changes in disease.
Human behaviour requires flexible arbitration between actions we do out of habit and actions that are directed towards a specific goal. Drugs that target opioid and dopamine receptors are notorious for inducing maladaptive habitual drug consumption; yet, how the opioidergic and dopaminergic neurotransmitter systems contribute to the arbitration between habitual and goal-directed behaviour is poorly understood. By combining pharmacological challenges with a well-established decision-making task and a novel computational model, we show that the administration of the dopamine D2/3 receptor antagonist amisulpride led to an increase in goal-directed or ‘model-based’ relative to habitual or ‘model-free’ behaviour, whereas the non-selective opioid receptor antagonist naltrexone had no appreciable effect. The effect of amisulpride on model-based/model-free behaviour did not scale with drug serum levels in the blood. Furthermore, participants with higher amisulpride serum levels showed higher explorative behaviour. These findings highlight the distinct functional contributions of dopamine and opioid receptors to goal-directed and habitual behaviour and support the notion that even small doses of amisulpride promote flexible application of cognitive control.