Contribution of Sensory Encoding to Measured Bias.
Signal detection theory (SDT) is a widely used theoretical framework that describes how variable sensory signals are integrated with a decision criterion to support perceptual decision-making. SDT provides two key measurements: sensitivity (d') and bias (c), which reflect the separability of decision variable distributions (signal and noise) and the position of the decision criterion relative to optimal, respectively. Although changes in the subject's decision criterion can be reflected in changes in bias, decision criterion placement is not the sole contributor to measured bias. Indeed, neuronal representations of bias have been observed in sensory areas, suggesting that some changes in bias are because of effects on sensory encoding. To directly test whether the sensory encoding process can influence bias, we optogenetically manipulated neuronal excitability in primary visual cortex (V1) in mice of both sexes during either an orientation discrimination or a contrast detection task. Increasing excitability in V1 significantly decreased behavioral bias, whereas decreasing excitability had the opposite effect. To determine whether this change in bias is consistent with effects on sensory encoding, we made extracellular recordings from V1 neurons in passively viewing mice. Indeed, we found that optogenetic manipulation of excitability shifted the neuronal bias in the same direction as the behavioral bias. Moreover, manipulating the quality of V1 encoding by changing stimulus contrast or interstimulus interval also resulted in consistent changes in both behavioral and neuronal bias. Thus, changes in sensory encoding are sufficient to drive changes in bias measured using SDT.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Perceptual decision-making involves sensory integration followed by application of a cognitive criterion. Using signal detection theory, one can extract features of the underlying decision variables and rule: sensitivity (d') and bias (c). Because bias is measured as the difference between the optimal and actual criterion, it is sensitive to both the sensory encoding processes and the placement of the decision criterion. Here, we use behavioral and electrophysiological approaches to demonstrate that measures of bias depend on sensory processes. Optogenetic manipulations of V1 in mice bidirectionally affect both behavioral and neuronal measures of bias with little effect on sensitivity. Thus, changes in sensory encoding influence bias, and the absence of changes in sensitivity do not preclude changes in sensory encoding.
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