Cortical areas seem to form a hierarchy of intrinsic timescales, but the relevance of this organization for cognitive behavior remains unknown. In particular, decisions requiring the gradual accrual of sensory evidence over time recruit widespread areas across this hierarchy. Here, we tested the hypothesis that this recruitment is related to the intrinsic integration timescales of these widespread areas. We trained mice to accumulate evidence over seconds while navigating in virtual reality and optogenetically silenced the activity of many cortical areas during different brief trial epochs. We found that the inactivation of all tested areas affected the evidence-accumulation computation. Specifically, we observed distinct changes in the weighting of sensory evidence occurring during and before silencing, such that frontal inactivations led to stronger deficits on long timescales than posterior cortical ones. Inactivation of a subset of frontal areas also led to moderate effects on behavioral processes beyond evidence accumulation. Moreover, large-scale cortical Ca2+ activity during task performance displayed different temporal integration windows. Our findings suggest that the intrinsic timescale hierarchy of distributed cortical areas is an important component of evidence-accumulation mechanisms.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)