Jessica A. Diaz, Filippo Queirazza & Marios G. Philiastides
Nature Human Behaviour 1, Article number: 0035 (2017) doi:10.1038/s41562-016-0035
An emerging view in perceptual learning is that improvements in perceptual sensitivity are not only due to enhancements in early sensory representations but also due to changes in post-sensory decision-processing. In humans, however, direct neurobiological evidence of the latter remains scarce. Here, we trained participants on a visual categorization task over three days and used multivariate pattern analysis of the electroencephalogram to identify two temporally specific components encoding sensory (‘Early’) and decision (‘Late’) evidence, respectively. Importantly, the single-trial amplitudes of the Late, but not the Early component, were amplified in the course of training, and these enhancements predicted the behavioural improvements on the task. Correspondingly, we modelled these improvements with a reinforcement learning mechanism, using a reward prediction error signal to strengthen the readout of sensory evidence used for the decision. We validated this mechanism through a robust association between the model’s decision variables and the amplitudes of our Late component that encode decision evidence.