Neural population code for fine perceptual decisions in area MT

Nat Neurosci. 2005 Jan;8(1):99-106. doi: 10.1038/nn1373. Epub 2004 Dec 19.


In the middle temporal (MT) area of primates, many motion-sensitive neurons with a wide range of preferred directions respond to a stimulus moving in a single direction. These neurons are involved in direction perception, but it is not clear how perceptual decisions are related to the population response. We recorded the activities of MT neurons in rhesus monkeys while they discriminated closely related directions, and examined the relationship between the activities of neurons tuned to different directions and the monkeys' choices. Perceptual decisions were significantly correlated with the activities of the highest-precision neurons but not with those of the lowest-precision neurons. The combined performance of the high-precision neurons matched the monkeys' behavior, whereas the ability to predict behavior based on the entire active population was poor. These results suggest that fine discrimination decisions are crucially dependent on the activities of the most informative neurons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*