Parietal neurons encode expected gains in instrumental information

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2017 Apr 18;114(16):E3315-E3323. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1613844114. Epub 2017 Apr 3.


In natural behavior, animals have access to multiple sources of information, but only a few of these sources are relevant for learning and actions. Beyond choosing an appropriate action, making good decisions entails the ability to choose the relevant information, but fundamental questions remain about the brain's information sampling policies. Recent studies described the neural correlates of seeking information about a reward, but it remains unknown whether, and how, neurons encode choices of instrumental information, in contexts in which the information guides subsequent actions. Here we show that parietal cortical neurons involved in oculomotor decisions encode, before an information sampling saccade, the reduction in uncertainty that the saccade is expected to bring for a subsequent action. These responses were distinct from the neurons' visual and saccadic modulations and from signals of expected reward or reward prediction errors. Therefore, even in an instrumental context when information and reward gains are closely correlated, individual cells encode decision variables that are based on informational factors and can guide the active sampling of action-relevant cues.

Keywords: attention; decisions; information sampling; reward; saccades.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reward