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Stimulus-choice (mis)alignment in primate area MT

dataset
posted on 24.04.2020, 18:38 by Yuan Zhao, Il Memming Park
For stimuli near perceptual threshold, the trial-by-trial activity of single neurons in many sensory areas is correlated with the animal's perceptual report.
This phenomenon has often been attributed to feedforward readout of the neural activity by the downstream decision-making circuits.
The interpretation of choice-correlated activity is quite ambiguous, but its meaning can be better understood in the light of population-wide correlations among sensory neurons.
Using a statistical nonlinear dimensionality reduction technique on single-trial ensemble recordings from the middle temporal (MT) area during perceptual-decision-making, we extracted low-dimensional latent factors that captured the population-wide fluctuations.
We dissected the particular contributions of sensory-driven versus choice-correlated activity in the low-dimensional population code.
We found that the latent factors strongly encoded the direction of the stimulus in single dimension with a temporal signature similar to that of single MT neurons.
If the downstream circuit were optimally utilizing this information, choice-correlated signals should be aligned with this stimulus encoding dimension.
Surprisingly, we found that a large component of the choice information resides in the subspace orthogonal to the stimulus representation inconsistent with the optimal readout view.
This misaligned choice information allows the feedforward sensory information to coexist with the decision-making process.
The time course of these signals suggest that this misaligned contribution likely is feedback from the downstream areas.
We hypothesize that this non-corrupting choice-correlated feedback might be related to learning or reinforcing sensory-motor relations in the sensory population.

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