Sensory decisions involve multiple cortical areas, but it is unclear to what extent these areas carry distinct signals and play distinct causal roles. We trained head-fixed mice to discriminate visual contrast and report their decision by turning a wheel. Widefield calcium imaging and Neuropixels recordings revealed stimulus-related activity in visual (VIS) and secondary motor (MOs) areas, and widespread movement-related activity across the dorsal cortex. Optogenetic inactivation biased choices only when it was targeted at VIS and MOs, at times corresponding to peak stimulus decoding. A neurometric model based on summing and subtracting activity in VIS and MOs successfully described performance and predicted the effect of optogenetic inactivation. Thus, sensory signals in VIS and MOs are causally necessary for task performance, while diffuse dorsal cortical signals correlating with movement do not play a causal role. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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