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Perceptual decisions result from the continuous accumulation of memory and sensory evidence

By Aaron M. Bornstein, Mariam Aly, Samuel F. Feng, Nicholas B Turk-Browne, Kenneth A. Norman, Jonathan D. Cohen

Posted 10 Sep 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/186817

Expectations can inform fast, accurate decisions. But what informs expectations? Here we test the hypothesis that expectations are set by dynamic inference from memory. Participants performed a cue-guided perceptual decision task with independently-varying memory and sensory evidence. Cues established expectations by reminding participants of past stimulus-stimulus pairings, which predicted the likely target in a subsequent noisy image stream. Participant's responses used both memory and sensory information, weighted by their relative reliability. Formal model comparison showed that the sensory evidence accumulation was best explained when its parameters were set dynamically at each trial by evidence accumulated from memory. Supporting this model, neural pattern analysis revealed that responses to the probe were modulated by the specific content and fidelity of memory reinstatement that occurred before the probe appeared. Together, these results suggest that perceptual decisions arise from the continuous and integrated accumulation of memory and sensory evidence.

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