Evidence accumulation detected in BOLD signal using slow perceptual decision making

Paul M. Krueger, Marieke K. van Vugt, Patrick Simen, Leigh Nystrom, Philip Holmes, Jonathan D. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background We assessed whether evidence accumulation could be observed in the BOLD signal during perceptual decision making. This presents a challenge since the hemodynamic response is slow, while perceptual decisions are typically fast. New method Guided by theoretical predictions of the drift diffusion model, we slowed down decisions by penalizing participants for incorrect responses. Second, we distinguished BOLD activity related to stimulus detection (modeled using a boxcar) from activity related to integration (modeled using a ramp) by minimizing the collinearity of GLM regressors. This was achieved by dissecting a boxcar into its two most orthogonal components: an “up-ramp” and a “down-ramp.” Third, we used a control condition in which stimuli and responses were similar to the experimental condition, but that did not engage evidence accumulation of the stimuli. Results The results revealed an absence of areas in parietal cortex that have been proposed to drive perceptual decision making but have recently come into question; and newly identified regions that are candidates for involvement in evidence accumulation. Comparison with existing methods Previous fMRI studies have either used fast perceptual decision making, which precludes the measurement of evidence accumulation, or slowed down responses by gradually revealing stimuli. The latter approach confounds perceptual detection with evidence accumulation because accumulation is constrained by perceptual input. Conclusions We slowed down the decision making process itself while leaving perceptual information intact. This provided a more sensitive and selective observation of brain regions associated with the evidence accumulation processes underlying perceptual decision making than previous methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-32
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • Decision making
  • Drift-diffusion model
  • Evidence accumulation
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging


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