Decision theory proposes that humans and animals decide what to do in a given situation by assessing the relative value of each possible response. This assessment can be computed, in part, from the probability that each action will result in a gain and the magnitude of the gain expected. Here we show that the gain (or reward) a monkey can expect to realize from an eye- movement response modulates the activity of neurons in the lateral intraparietal area, an area of primate cortex that is thought to transform visual signals into eye-movement commands. We also show that the activity of these neurons is sensitive to the probability that a particular response will result in a gain. When animals can choose freely between two alternative responses, the choices subjects make and neuronal activation in this area are both correlated with the relative amount of gain that the animal can expect from each response. Our data indicate that a decision-theoretic model may provide a powerful new framework for studying the neural processes that intervene between sensation and action.
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