Fronto-parietal Cortical Circuits Encode Accumulated Evidence with a Diversity of Timescales

Benjamin B. Scott, Christine M. Constantinople, Athena Akrami, Timothy D. Hanks, Carlos D. Brody, David W. Tank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Decision-making in dynamic environments often involves accumulation of evidence, in which new information is used to update beliefs and select future actions. Using in vivo cellular resolution imaging in voluntarily head-restrained rats, we examined the responses of neurons in frontal and parietal cortices during a pulse-based accumulation of evidence task. Neurons exhibited activity that predicted the animal's upcoming choice, previous choice, and graded responses that reflected the strength of the accumulated evidence. The pulsatile nature of the stimuli enabled characterization of the responses of neurons to a single quantum (pulse) of evidence. Across the population, individual neurons displayed extensive heterogeneity in the dynamics of responses to pulses. The diversity of responses was sufficiently rich to form a temporal basis for accumulated evidence estimated from a latent variable model. These results suggest that heterogeneous, often transient sensory responses distributed across the fronto-parietal cortex may support working memory on behavioral timescales. Video Abstract [Figure presented] Leading models of decision-making postulate that individual fronto-parietal neurons encode accumulated sensory evidence with stable changes in firing rate. Using cellular resolution calcium imaging during a pulse-based accumulation task, Scott et al. reveal that stable representations of accumulated evidence in rat fronto-parietal cortex instead arise from neuronal populations with temporally diverse responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-398.e5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 19 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • accumulation of evidence
  • calcium imaging
  • decision-making
  • drift diffusion model
  • head restraint
  • multiphoton fluorescence microscopy
  • neocortex
  • neural coding
  • rodent
  • working memory


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