1. Neuroscience
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Human VMPFC encodes early signatures of confidence in perceptual decisions

  1. Sabina Gherman
  2. Marios Philiastides  Is a corresponding author
  1. University of Glasgow, United Kingdom
Research Article
  • Cited 16
  • Views 2,599
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Cite this article as: eLife 2018;7:e38293 doi: 10.7554/eLife.38293
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Abstract

Choice confidence, an individual's internal estimate of judgment accuracy, plays a critical role in adaptive behaviour, yet its neural representations during decision formation remain underexplored. Here, we recorded simultaneous EEG-fMRI while participants performed a direction discrimination task and rated their confidence on each trial. Using multivariate single-trial discriminant analysis of the EEG, we identified a stimulus-independent component encoding confidence, which appeared prior to subjects' choice and explicit confidence report, and was consistent with a confidence measure predicted by an accumulation-to-bound model of decision-making. Importantly, trial-to-trial variability in this electrophysiologically-derived confidence signal was uniquely associated with fMRI responses in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), a region not typically associated with confidence for perceptual decisions. Furthermore, activity in the VMPFC was functionally coupled with regions of the frontal cortex linked to perceptual decision-making and metacognition. Our results suggest the VMPFC holds an early confidence representation arising from decision dynamics, preceding and potentially informing metacognitive evaluation.

Data availability

The data and code required to reproduce the main and supplementary figures have been uploaded to Dryad. The full EEG-fMRI dataset will be freely available upon publication at: https://openneuro.org/datasets/ds001512.

The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Sabina Gherman

    Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-9918-3692
  2. Marios Philiastides

    Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    marios.philiastides@glasgow.ac.uk
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-7683-3506

Funding

Economic and Social Research Council (ES/L012995/1)

  • Marios Philiastides

British Academy (SG121587)

  • Marios Philiastides

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Human subjects: The study was approved by the College of Science and Engineering Ethics Committee at the University of Glasgow (CSE01355) and informed consent, and consent to publish, was obtained from all participants.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Tobias H Donner, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: May 29, 2018
  2. Accepted: September 20, 2018
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: September 24, 2018 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: October 23, 2018 (version 2)
  5. Version of Record updated: November 9, 2018 (version 3)

Copyright

© 2018, Gherman & Philiastides

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.

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Further reading

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    Studies in rats, monkeys, and humans have found action-value signals in multiple regions of the brain. These findings suggest that action-value signals encoded in these brain structures bias choices toward higher expected rewards. However, previous estimates of action-value signals might have been inflated by serial correlations in neural activity and also by activity related to other decision variables. Here, we applied several statistical tests based on permutation and surrogate data to analyze neural activity recorded from the striatum, frontal cortex, and hippocampus. The results show that previously identified action-value signals in these brain areas cannot be entirely accounted for by concurrent serial correlations in neural activity and action value. We also found that neural activity related to action value is intermixed with signals related to other decision variables. Our findings provide strong evidence for broadly distributed neural signals related to action value throughout the brain.

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