Mice alternate between discrete strategies during perceptual decision-making

The International Brain Laboratory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Classical models of perceptual decision-making assume that subjects use a single, consistent strategy to form decisions, or that decision-making strategies evolve slowly over time. Here we present new analyses suggesting that this common view is incorrect. We analyzed data from mouse and human decision-making experiments and found that choice behavior relies on an interplay among multiple interleaved strategies. These strategies, characterized by states in a hidden Markov model, persist for tens to hundreds of trials before switching, and often switch multiple times within a session. The identified decision-making strategies were highly consistent across mice and comprised a single ‘engaged’ state, in which decisions relied heavily on the sensory stimulus, and several biased states in which errors frequently occurred. These results provide a powerful alternate explanation for ‘lapses’ often observed in rodent behavioral experiments, and suggest that standard measures of performance mask the presence of major changes in strategy across trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-212
Number of pages12
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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