Integration of sensory evidence in motion discrimination

Mehrdad Jazayeri, J. Anthony Movshon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To make perceptual judgments, the brain must decode the responses of sensory cortical neurons. The direction of visual motion is represented by the activity of direction-selective neurons. Because these neurons are often broadly tuned and their responses are inherently variable, the brain must appropriately integrate their responses to infer the direction of motion reliably. The optimal integration strategy is task dependent. For coarse direction discriminations, neurons tuned to the directions of interest provide the most reliable information, but for fine discriminations, neurons with preferred directions displaced away from the target directions are more informative. We measured coarse and fine direction discriminations with random-dot stimuli. Unbeknownst to the observers, we added subthreshold motion signals of different directions to perturb the responses of different groups of direction-selective neurons. The pattern of biases induced by subthreshold signals of different directions indicates that subjects' choice behavior relied on the activity of neurons with a wide range of preferred directions. For coarse discriminations, observers' judgments were most strongly determined by neurons tuned to the target directions, but for fine discriminations, neurons with displaced preferred directions had the largest influence. We conclude that perceptual decisions rely on a population decoding strategy that takes the statistical reliability of sensory responses into account.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number12
StatePublished - Sep 20 2007


  • Discrimination
  • Motion perception
  • Population coding
  • Subthreshold summation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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