How sensory evidence is transformed across multiple brain regions to influence behavior remains poorly understood. We trained mice in a visual change detection task designed to separate the covert antecedents of choices from activity associated with their execution. Wide-field calcium imaging across the dorsal cortex revealed fundamentally different dynamics of activity underlying these processes. Although signals related to execution of choice were widespread, fluctuations in sensory evidence in the absence of overt motor responses triggered a confined activity cascade, beginning with transient modulation of visual cortex and followed by sustained recruitment of the secondary and primary motor cortex. Activation of the motor cortex by sensory evidence was modulated by animals' expectation of when the stimulus was likely to change. These results reveal distinct activation timescales of specific cortical areas by sensory evidence during decision-making and show that recruitment of the motor cortex depends on the interaction of sensory evidence and temporal expectation.
Keywords: decision-making; mouse behavior; premotor cortex; secondary motor cortex; sensory processing; temporal expectation; visual cortex; wide-field calcium imaging.
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