Moment-to-moment neural variability uniquely tracks decision bias shifts

October 27, 2020

Kloosterman, N. A., Kosciessa, J. Q., Lindenberger, U., Fahrenfort, J. J., & Garrett, D. D. (2020). Boosts in brain signal variability track liberal shifts in decision bias. eLife, 9, Article e54201.

Adopting particular decision biases allows organisms to tailor their choices to environmental demands. For example, a liberal response strategy pays off when target detection is crucial, whereas a conservative strategy is optimal for avoiding false alarms. Using conventional time-frequency analysis of human electroencephalographic (EEG) activity, we previously showed that bias setting entails adjustment of evidence accumulation in sensory brain regions (Kloosterman et al., 2019), but the presumed prefrontal signature of a conservative-to-liberal bias shift has remained elusive. Here, we show that a liberal bias shift is reflected in a more unconstrained neural regime (boosted entropy) in frontal regions that is suited to the detection of unpredictable events. Overall EEG variation, spectral power and event-related potentials could not explain this relationship, highlighting that moment-to-moment neural variability uniquely tracks bias shifts. Neural variability modulation through prefrontal cortex appears instrumental for permitting an organism to adapt its biases to environmental demands.

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