Abstract

The evolution of neural activity during a perceptual decision is well characterized by the evidence parameter in sequential sampling models. However, it is not known whether accumulating signals in human neuroimaging are related to the integration of evidence. Our aim was to determine whether activity accumulates in a nonperceptual task by identifying brain regions tracking the strength of probabilistic evidence. fMRI was used to measure whole-brain activity as choices were informed by integrating a series of learned prior probabilities. Participants first learned the predictive relationship between a set of shape stimuli and one of two choices. During scanned testing, they made binary choices informed by the sum of the predictive strengths of individual shapes. Sequences of shapes adhered to three distinct rates of evidence (RoEs): rapid, gradual, and switch. We predicted that activity in regions informing the decision would modulate as a function of RoE prior to the choice. Activity in some regions, including premotor areas, changed as a function of RoE and response hand, indicating a role in forming an intention to respond. Regions in occipital, temporal, and parietal lobes modulated as a function of RoE only, suggesting a preresponse stage of evidence processing. In all of these regions, activity was greatest on rapid trials and least on switch trials, which is consistent with an accumulation-to-boundary account. In contrast, activity in a set of frontal and parietal regions was greatest on switch and least on rapid trials, which is consistent with an effort or time-on-task account.

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