Article

Arousal-related adjustments of perceptual biases optimize perception in dynamic environments

  • Nature Human Behaviour 1, Article number: 0107 (2017)
  • doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0107
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Abstract

Prior expectations can be used to improve perceptual judgments about ambiguous stimuli. However, little is known about whether and how these improvements are maintained in dynamic environments in which the quality of appropriate priors changes from one stimulus to the next. Here we use a sound-localization task to show that changes in stimulus predictability lead to arousal-mediated adjustments in the magnitude of prior-driven biases that optimize perceptual judgments about each stimulus. These adjustments depend on task-dependent changes in the relevance and reliability of prior expectations, which subjects update using both normative and idiosyncratic principles. The resulting variations in biases across task conditions and individuals are reflected in modulations of pupil diameter, such that larger stimulus-evoked pupil responses correspond to smaller biases. These results suggest a notable role for the arousal system in adjusting the strength of perceptual biases with respect to inferred environmental dynamics to optimize perceptual judgements.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A.-A. Stoica and N. Kabir for aiding in data collection, L. Ding and T. Doi for helpful comments. This work was funded by NIH grants F32 MH102009 (M.R.N.) and R01 EY015260 and NSF 1533623 (J.I.G.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Author information

Author notes

    • Kamesh Krishnamurthy
    •  & Matthew R. Nassar

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, 3610 Hamilton Walk, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.

    • Kamesh Krishnamurthy
    •  & Joshua I. Gold
  2. Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, Brown University, 190 Thayer Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA.

    • Matthew R. Nassar
  3. Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, 200 South 33rd Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.

    • Shilpa Sarode

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Contributions

All authors designed the experiment and analyses and wrote the manuscript, K.K. collected the data, and K.K. and M.R.N. analysed the data.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Joshua I. Gold.

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