1. Neuroscience
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The role of premature evidence accumulation in making difficult perceptual decisions under temporal uncertainty

  1. Ciara A Devine  Is a corresponding author
  2. Christine Gaffney
  3. Gerard M Loughnane
  4. Simon P Kelly
  5. Redmond G O'Connell  Is a corresponding author
  1. Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Ireland
  2. University College Dublin, Ireland
Research Article
  • Cited 2
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Cite this article as: eLife 2019;8:e48526 doi: 10.7554/eLife.48526

Abstract

The computations and neural processes underpinning decision making have primarily been investigated using highly simplified tasks in which stimulus onsets cue observers to start accumulating choice-relevant information. Yet, in daily life we are rarely afforded the luxury of knowing precisely when choice-relevant information will appear. Here, we examined neural indices of decision formation while subjects discriminated subtle stimulus feature changes whose timing relative to stimulus onset ('foreperiod') was uncertain. Joint analysis of behavioural error patterns and neural decision signal dynamics indicated that subjects systematically began the accumulation process before any informative evidence was presented, and further, that accumulation onset timing varied systematically as a function of the foreperiod of the preceding trial. These results suggest that the brain can adjust to temporal uncertainty by strategically modulating accumulation onset timing according to statistical regularities in the temporal structure of the sensory environment with particular emphasis on recent experience.

Data availability

Data is available on dryad at https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.b2rbnzs8r and Github https://github.com/CiaraDevine/Temporal_Uncertainty_DevineCA_2019

The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Ciara A Devine

    Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
    For correspondence
    devineca@tcd.ie
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-7522-1172
  2. Christine Gaffney

    Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Gerard M Loughnane

    Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-1961-5294
  4. Simon P Kelly

    School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-9983-3595
  5. Redmond G O'Connell

    Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
    For correspondence
    reoconne@tcd.ie
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-6949-2793

Funding

Irish Research Council (Postgraduate Fellowship)

  • Ciara A Devine
  • Redmond G O'Connell

H2020 European Research Council (Starting Grant 63829)

  • Redmond G O'Connell

National Science Foundation (BCS-1358955)

  • Simon P Kelly
  • Redmond G O'Connell

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

Ethics

Human subjects: Written, informed consent was obtained from all subjects prior to taking part in this study and all procedures were approved by the Trinity College Dublin ethics committee (SPREC112014-01) and conducted in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Marios Philiastides, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: May 16, 2019
  2. Accepted: November 26, 2019
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: November 27, 2019 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: December 10, 2019 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2019, Devine 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.

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