In theoretical accounts of perceptual decision-making, a decision variable integrates noisy sensory evidence and determines action through a boundary-crossing criterion. Signals bearing these very properties have been characterized in single neurons in monkeys, but have yet to be directly identified in humans. Using a gradual target detection task, we isolated a freely evolving decision variable signal in human subjects that exhibited every aspect of the dynamics observed in its single-neuron counterparts. This signal could be continuously tracked in parallel with fully dissociable sensory encoding and motor preparation signals, and could be systematically perturbed mid-flight during decision formation. Furthermore, we found that the signal was completely domain general: it exhibited the same decision-predictive dynamics regardless of sensory modality and stimulus features and tracked cumulative evidence even in the absence of overt action. These findings provide a uniquely clear view on the neural determinants of simple perceptual decisions in humans.
Trinity College Dublin ->