Studies of perceptual decision-making have often assumed that the main role of sensory cortices is to provide sensory input to downstream processes that accumulate and drive behavioral decisions. We performed a systematic comparison of neural activity in primary visual (V1) to secondary visual and retrosplenial cortices, as mice performed a task where they should accumulate pulsatile visual cues through time to inform a navigational decision. Even in V1, only a small fraction of neurons had sensory-like responses to cues. Instead, in all areas neurons were sequentially active, and contained information ranging from sensory to cognitive, including cue timings, evidence, place/time, decision and reward outcome. Per-cue sensory responses were amplitude-modulated by various cognitive quantities, notably accumulated evidence. This inspired a multiplicative feedback-loop circuit hypothesis that proposes a more intricate role of sensory areas in the accumulation process, and furthermore explains a surprising observation that perceptual discrimination deviates from Weber-Fechner Law.
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