Theses Doctoral

Flexible routing of information for decision making

Odean, Naomi N.

Behaving in a complex world requires flexible mapping between sensory inputs and motor outputs. One must be able to make decisions about what actions to take based on a wide variety of inputs. This presents a routing problem: brain areas involved in decision making must receive information encoded by different sensory neurons in different situations. In this thesis I investigate this routing problem using two variations of the random dot motion task which require flexible routing. In the first, a single random dot motion task appears in different locations on different trials. Recording from the lateral intraparietal area (LIP) revealed several neural features which varied with stimulus location. A second task made it possible to disentangle routing from other signals, by separating the time of routing from the onset of motion and decision making. In this second task, a visual cue indicated the location at which relevant motion would appear. After the cue was extinguished, two random dot motion patches appeared. An informative patch appeared at the cued location, and an uninformative patch appeared at another location. Comparison of these two tasks revealed three location dependent signals at motion onset: a visual signal related to surround suppression, a second suppressive signal that may set the amount of evidence required for decision making, and a 12-20 hertz oscillation in firing rate. This oscillation appears to be a signature of flexible information routing. It appears at motion onset when the motion stimulus varies in location unpredictably; it appears at cue onset when a spatial cue indicates the location information must be routed from; and it does not appear when stimulus location is fixed and flexible routing is not required. Future work on this project will eventually require tools which are not well developed for use in rhesus macaques. The final chapter describes two projects which attempt to address this problem, one through the use of optogenetics in monkeys and the other by adapting an established monkey behavioral task for use in mice.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Neurobiology and Behavior
Thesis Advisors
Shadlen, Michael Neil
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 31, 2020