"Before we conducted this study, we did not have a way of looking at this process without inserting electrodes into the brain," Brody said. "Now thanks to our model, we have an estimation of what is going on at each moment in time during the formation of the decision."
The study suggests that information represented and processed in the brain's neurons must be robust to noise, Brody said. "In other words, the 'neural code' may have a mechanism for inherent error correction," he said.
"The new work from the Brody lab is important for a few reasons," said Anne Churchland, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory who studies decision-making and was not involved in the study. "First, the work was very innovative because the researchers were able to study carefully controlled decision-making behavior in rodents. This is surprising in that one might have guessed rodents were incapable of producing stable, reliable decisions that are based on complex sensory stimuli.
"This work exposed some unexpected features of why animals, including humans, sometimes make incorrect decisions," Churchland said. "Specifically, the researchers found that errors are mostly driven by the inability to accurately encode sensory information. Alternative possibilities, which the authors ruled out, included noise associated with holding the stimulus in mind, or memory noise, and noise associated with a bias toward one alternative or the other."
|Contact: Morgan Kelly|