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Zoe Boundy-Singer, Corey Ziemba, Robbe Goris; Population activity in sensory cortex informs confidence in a perceptual decision. Journal of Vision 2023;23(9):5418. https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.23.9.5418.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Observers are aware of the fallibility of perception. When we experience a high degree of confidence in a perceptual interpretation, that interpretation is more likely to be correct than when we feel less confident. Here we ask how neural population activity in sensory cortex informs confidence in perceptual decisions. We used multilaminar electrode arrays to record population activity in the primary visual cortex of a macaque monkey performing a perceptual confidence task. Specifically, the animal judged the orientation of ambiguous stimuli (“clockwise” vs “counter-clockwise”) and simultaneously reported their confidence in this decision (“high” vs “low”). Choices were rewarded in such a way that the most profitable strategy required the animal to take into account the uncertainty of the perceptual orientation estimates. Analysis of the choice behavior revealed that high confidence choices were more accurate than low confidence choices, and that both stimulus strength (rotation magnitude) and stimulus reliability (high vs low contrast) impacted the confidence report. We then asked how this choice behavior related to V1 population activity. Consistent with recent studies of perceptual decision-making, V1 activity was not predictive of variability in the animal’s perceptual choice within single stimulus conditions. However, these same neural responses did predict variability in the animal’s confidence reports. Trials with more overall spiking activity were associated with more confident perceptual decisions. We studied the temporal evolution of this association and found it to reach significance immediately after response onset. Together, these results suggest that V1 responsiveness directly informs downstream estimates of perceptual orientation certainty, which in turn impact confidence in orientation categorization decisions.
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