Posterior parietal cortex plays a causal role in perceptual and categorical decisions

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Science  12 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6449, pp. 180-185
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw8347

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Perceptual decision-making in primates

Past investigations of the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) in perceptual decisions tested only its contribution to motor aspects of decisions. However, Zhou and Freedman tested the primate PPC's role in both sensory and motor aspects of decisions. Inactivation of the lateral intraparietal area strongly impaired sensory processing aspects of decision-making, more so than motor aspects. Lateral intraparietal area neurons targeted for inactivation were highly correlated with the monkeys' trial-by-trial decisions about stimuli in the neurons' receptive fields. Thus, the posterior parietal cortex is indeed involved in decision-making but plays a more sensory role than predicted.

Science, this issue p. 180


Posterior parietal cortex (PPC) activity correlates with monkeys’ decisions during visual discrimination and categorization tasks. However, recent work has questioned whether decision-correlated PPC activity plays a causal role in such decisions. That study focused on PPC’s contribution to motor aspects of decisions (deciding where to move), but not sensory evaluation aspects (deciding what you are looking at). We employed reversible inactivation to compare PPC’s contributions to motor and sensory aspects of decisions. Inactivation affected both aspects of behavior, but preferentially impaired decisions when visual stimuli, rather than motor response targets, were in the inactivated visual field. This demonstrates a causal role for PPC in decision-making, with preferential involvement in evaluating attended task-relevant sensory stimuli compared with motor planning.

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