A Probabilistic, Distributed, Recursive Mechanism for Decision-making in the Brain

Javier Caballero, Mark Humphries, Kevin Gurney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decision formation recruits many brain regions, but the procedure they jointly execute is unknown. Here we characterize its essential composition, using as a framework a novel recursive Bayesian algorithm that makes decisions based on spike-trains with the statistics of those in sensory cortex (MT). Using it to simulate the random-dot-motion task, we demonstrate it quantitatively replicates the choice behaviour of monkeys, whilst predicting losses of otherwise usable information from MT. Its architecture maps to the recurrent cortico-basal-ganglia-thalamo-cortical loops, whose components are all implicated in decision-making. We show that the dynamics of its mapped computations
match those of neural activity in the sensorimotor cortex and striatum during decisions, and forecast those of basal ganglia output and thalamus. This also predicts which aspects of neural dynamics are and are not part of inference. Our single-equation algorithm is probabilistic, distributed, recursive, and parallel. Its success at capturing anatomy, behaviour, and electrophysiology suggests that the mechanism implemented by the brain has these same characteristics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPL o S Computational Biology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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