Angela M. Licata, Matthew T. Kaufman, David Raposo, Michael B. Ryan, John P. Sheppard and Anne K. Churchland
Journal of Neuroscience 13 April 2017, 37 (19) 4954-4966
Neurons in putative decision-making structures can reflect both sensory and decision signals, making their causal role in decisions unclear. Here, we tested whether rat posterior parietal cortex (PPC) is causal for processing visual sensory signals or instead for accumulating evidence for decision alternatives. We disrupted PPC activity optogenetically during decision making and compared effects on decisions guided by auditory versus visual evidence. Deficits were largely restricted to visual decisions. To further test for visual dominance in PPC, we evaluated electrophysiological responses after individual sensory events and observed much larger response modulation after visual stimuli than auditory stimuli. Finally, we measured trial-to-trial spike count variability during stimulus presentation and decision formation. Variability decreased sharply, suggesting that the network is stabilized by inputs, unlike what would be expected if sensory signals were locally accumulated. Our findings suggest that PPC plays a causal role in processing visual signals that are accumulated elsewhere.