Article

A category-free neural population supports evolving demands during decision-making

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Abstract

The posterior parietal cortex (PPC) receives diverse inputs and is involved in a dizzying array of behaviors. These many behaviors could rely on distinct categories of neurons specialized to represent particular variables or could rely on a single population of PPC neurons that is leveraged in different ways. To distinguish these possibilities, we evaluated rat PPC neurons recorded during multisensory decisions. Newly designed tests revealed that task parameters and temporal response features were distributed randomly across neurons, without evidence of categories. This suggests that PPC neurons constitute a dynamic network that is decoded according to the animal's present needs. To test for an additional signature of a dynamic network, we compared moments when behavioral demands differed: decision and movement. Our new state-space analysis revealed that the network explored different dimensions during decision and movement. These observations suggest that a single network of neurons can support the evolving behavioral demands of decision-making.

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Acknowledgements

We thank P. Znamenskiy, S. Jaramillo and T. Zador for technical advice, K. Rockland and A. Licata for help with histology, J. Sheppard and M. Ryan for help with electrophysiology and neural clustering, and M. Carandini and A. Rangel for providing input to early versions of the manuscript. Funding for this work was provided by US National Institutes of Health grants EY019072 and EY022979, the John Merck Fund, the McKnight Foundation, the Marie Robertson Memorial Fund of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and a Swartz Foundation fellowship.

Author information

Author notes

    • David Raposo
    •  & Matthew T Kaufman

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA.

    • David Raposo
    • , Matthew T Kaufman
    •  & Anne K Churchland
  2. Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme, Lisboa, Portugal.

    • David Raposo

Authors

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Contributions

D.R. and A.K.C. designed the experiments. D.R. performed the electrophysiology and inactivations. M.T.K. developed the PAIRS, variance alignment and decode analyses. D.R. and M.T.K. analyzed the data. A.K.C. wrote the paper. All authors discussed the results and implications and commented on the manuscript at all stages.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Anne K Churchland.

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