Microstimulation of visual cortex affects the speed of perceptual decisions

Nat Neurosci. 2003 Aug;6(8):891-8. doi: 10.1038/nn1094.


Direction-selective neurons in the middle temporal visual area (MT) are crucially involved in motion perception, although it is not known exactly how the activity of these neurons is interpreted by the rest of the brain. Here we report that in a two-alternative task, the activity of MT neurons is interpreted as evidence for one direction and against the other. We measured the speed and accuracy of decisions as rhesus monkeys performed a direction-discrimination task. On half of the trials, we stimulated direction-selective neurons in area MT, thereby causing the monkeys to choose the neurons' preferred direction more often. Microstimulation quickened decisions in favor of the preferred direction and slowed decisions in favor of the opposite direction. Even on trials in which microstimulation did not induce a preferred direction choice, it still affected response times. Our findings suggest that during the formation of a decision, sensory evidence for competing propositions is compared and accumulates to a decision-making threshold.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Female
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*