Associative memory retrieval modulates upcoming perceptual decisions

Aaron M. Bornstein, Mariam Aly, Samuel F. Feng, Nicholas B. Turk-Browne, Kenneth A. Norman, Jonathan D. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Expectations can inform fast, accurate decisions. But what informs expectations? Here we test the hypothesis that expectations are set by dynamic inference from memory. Participants performed a cue-guided perceptual decision task with independently-varying memory and sensory evidence. Cues established expectations by reminding participants of past stimulus-stimulus pairings, which predicted the likely target in a subsequent noisy image stream. Participant’s responses used both memory and sensory information, in accordance to their relative reliability. Formal model comparison showed that the sensory inference was best explained when its parameters were set dynamically at each trial by evidence sampled from memory. Supporting this model, neural pattern analysis revealed that responses to the probe were modulated by the specific content and fidelity of memory reinstatement that occurred before the probe appeared. Together, these results suggest that perceptual decisions arise from the continuous sampling of memory and sensory evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-665
Number of pages21
JournalCognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Memory
  • Perceptual decisions
  • Sequential sampling


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