Decision making in recurrent neuronal circuits

Neuron. 2008 Oct 23;60(2):215-34. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.09.034.


Decision making has recently emerged as a central theme in neurophysiological studies of cognition, and experimental and computational work has led to the proposal of a cortical circuit mechanism of elemental decision computations. This mechanism depends on slow recurrent synaptic excitation balanced by fast feedback inhibition, which not only instantiates attractor states for forming categorical choices but also long transients for gradually accumulating evidence in favor of or against alternative options. Such a circuit endowed with reward-dependent synaptic plasticity is able to produce adaptive choice behavior. While decision threshold is a core concept for reaction time tasks, it can be dissociated from a general decision rule. Moreover, perceptual decisions and value-based economic choices are described within a unified framework in which probabilistic choices result from irregular neuronal activity as well as iterative interactions of a decision maker with an uncertain environment or other unpredictable decision makers in a social group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*