Recent studies have shown that activity in sensorimotor structures varies depending on the speed-accuracy trade-off (SAT) context in which a decision is made. Here we tested the hypothesis that the same areas also reflect a more local adjustment of SAT established between individual trials, based on the outcome of the previous decision. Two monkeys performed a reaching decision task in which sensory evidence continuously evolves during the time course of a trial. In two SAT contexts, we compared neural activity in trials following a correct choice vs. those following an error. In dorsal premotor cortex (PMd), we found that 23% of cells exhibited significantly weaker baseline activity after error trials, and for ∼30% of these this effect persisted into the deliberation epoch. These cells also contributed to the process of combining sensory evidence with the growing urgency to commit to a choice. We also found that the activity of 22% of PMd cells was increased after error trials. These neurons appeared to carry less information about sensory evidence and time-dependent urgency. For most of these modulated cells, the effect was independent of whether the previous error was expected or unexpected. We found similar phenomena in primary motor cortex (M1), with 25% of cells decreasing and 34% increasing activity after error trials, but unlike PMd, these neurons showed less clear differences in their response properties. These findings suggest that PMd and M1 belong to a network of brain areas involved in SAT adjustments established using the recent history of reinforcement.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY Setting the speed-accuracy trade-off (SAT) is crucial for efficient decision making. Previous studies have reported that subjects adjust their SAT after individual decisions, usually choosing more conservatively after errors, but the neural correlates of this phenomenon are only partially known. Here, we show that neurons in PMd and M1 of monkeys performing a reach decision task support this mechanism by adequately modulating their firing rate as a function of the outcome of the previous decision.
- decision making
- posterror slowing
- premotor cortex
- speed-accuracy trade-off
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