In perceptual discrimination tasks, a subject's response time is determined by both sensory and motor processes. Measuring the time consumed by the perceptual evaluation step alone is therefore complicated by factors such as motor preparation, task difficulty and speed-accuracy tradeoffs. Here we present a task design that minimizes these confounding factors and allows us to track a subject's perceptual performance with unprecedented temporal resolution. We find that monkeys can make accurate color discriminations in less than 30 ms. Furthermore, our simple task design provides a tool for elucidating how neuronal activity relates to sensory as opposed to motor processing, as demonstrated with neural data from cortical oculomotor neurons. In these cells, perceptual information acts by accelerating and decelerating the ongoing motor plans associated with correct and incorrect choices, as predicted by a race-to-threshold model, and the time course of these neural events parallels the time course of the subject's choice accuracy.
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Research was supported by the National Institutes of Health/National Eye Institute grant R01 EY12389 to T.R.S.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Stanford, T., Shankar, S., Massoglia, D. et al. Perceptual decision making in less than 30 milliseconds. Nat Neurosci 13, 379–385 (2010) doi:10.1038/nn.2485
Voluntary and involuntary contributions to perceptually guided saccadic choices resolved with millisecond precision
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