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Responses of pulvinar neurons reflect a subject's confidence in visual categorization

Nature Neuroscience volume 16, pages 749755 (2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

When we recognize a sensory event, we experience a confident feeling that we certainly know the perceived world 'here and now'. However, it is unknown how and where the brain generates such 'perceptual confidence'. Here we found neural correlates of confidence in the primate pulvinar, a visual thalamic nucleus that has been expanding markedly through evolution. During a categorization task, the majority of pulvinar responses did not correlate with any 'perceptual content'. During an opt-out task, pulvinar responses decreased when monkeys chose 'escape' options, suggesting less confidence in their perceptual categorization. Functional silencing of the pulvinar increased monkeys' escape choices in the opt-out task without affecting categorization performance; this effect was specific to the contralateral visual target. These data were supported by a theoretical model of confidence, indicating that pulvinar activities encode a subject's certainty of visual categorization and contribute to perceptual confidence.

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Acknowledgements

We thank K. Kawano, S. Dehaene, R. Kanai and S. Phillips for valuable comments and critical discussions; R. Tamura and K. Numata for continuous encouragement; T. Mega and A. Muramatsu for technical help and animal care. This work was supported in part by Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology program from Japan Science and Technology Agency, Grant-in-Aids for Young Scientists (A) and Scientific Research on Innovative Areas from Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan (to Y.K.).

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Systems Neuroscience, Human Technology Research Institute, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Tsukuba, Japan.

    • Yutaka Komura
    • , Akihiko Nikkuni
    • , Noriko Hirashima
    • , Teppei Uetake
    •  & Aki Miyamoto
  2. Precursory Research for Embryonic Science and Technology, Japan Science and Technology Agency, Saitama, Japan.

    • Yutaka Komura

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Contributions

Y.K. and N.H. designed the experiment. Y.K., A.N., N.H. and A.M. collected data. Y.K., A.N., T.U. and N.H. contributed to data analysis. All authors discussed the results and wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yutaka Komura.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3393

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