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Perceptual Decision-Making: Biases in Post-Error Reaction Times Explained by Attractor Network Dynamics

  • Berlemont, Kevin
  • Nadal, Jean-Pierre
Published Article
Journal of Neuroscience
Society for Neuroscience
Publication Date
Jan 30, 2019
DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1015-18.2018
PMID: 30504276
PMCID: PMC6382978
PubMed Central


Perceptual decision-making is the subject of many experimental and theoretical studies. Most modeling analyses are based on statistical processes of accumulation of evidence. In contrast, very few works confront attractor network models' predictions with empirical data from continuous sequences of trials. Recently however, numerical simulations of a biophysical competitive attractor network model have shown that such a network can describe sequences of decision trials and reproduce repetition biases observed in perceptual decision experiments. Here we get more insights into such effects by considering an extension of the reduced attractor network model of Wong and Wang (2006) , taking into account an inhibitory current delivered to the network once a decision has been made. We make explicit the conditions on this inhibitory input for which the network can perform a succession of trials, without being either trapped in the first reached attractor, or losing all memory of the past dynamics. We study in detail how, during a sequence of decision trials, reaction times and performance depend on nonlinear dynamics of the network, and we confront the model behavior with empirical findings on sequential effects. Here we show that, quite remarkably, the network exhibits, qualitatively and with the correct order of magnitude, post-error slowing and post-error improvement in accuracy, two subtle effects reported in behavioral experiments in the absence of any feedback about the correctness of the decision. Our work thus provides evidence that such effects result from intrinsic properties of the nonlinear neural dynamics. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Much experimental and theoretical work is being devoted to the understanding of the neural correlates of perceptual decision-making. In a typical behavioral experiment, animals or humans perform a continuous series of binary discrimination tasks. To model such experiments, we consider a biophysical decision-making attractor neural network, taking into account an inhibitory current delivered to the network once a decision is made. Here we provide evidence that the same intrinsic properties of the nonlinear network dynamics underpins various sequential effects reported in experiments. Quite remarkably, in the absence of feedback on the correctness of the decisions, the network exhibits post-error slowing (longer reaction times after error trials) and post-error improvement in accuracy (smaller error rates after error trials).

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