Probabilistic decision making by slow reverberation in cortical circuits

Neuron. 2002 Dec 5;36(5):955-68. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(02)01092-9.


Recent physiological studies of alert primates have revealed cortical neural correlates of key steps in a perceptual decision-making process. To elucidate synaptic mechanisms of decision making, I investigated a biophysically realistic cortical network model for a visual discrimination experiment. In the model, slow recurrent excitation and feedback inhibition produce attractor dynamics that amplify the difference between conflicting inputs and generates a binary choice. The model is shown to account for salient characteristics of the observed decision-correlated neural activity, as well as the animal's psychometric function and reaction times. These results suggest that recurrent excitation mediated by NMDA receptors provides a candidate cellular mechanism for the slow time integration of sensory stimuli and the formation of categorical choices in a decision-making neocortical network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Mathematics
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Reaction Time
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate* / metabolism
  • Synapses / metabolism


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate