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Title: Cognitive Dynamics During Perceptual Decision Making in the Rat
Authors: Piet, Alex
Advisors: Brody, Carlos D
Contributors: Neuroscience Department
Keywords: Animal behavior
Decision Making
Neural circuits
Optimal behavior
Subjects: Neurosciences
Cognitive psychology
Behavioral sciences
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Decision making refers to the cognitive and neural mechanisms that generate choices. Decision making is a ubiquitous feature of daily life. In this thesis I present two studies that develop models of decision making based on rat auditory behavioral tasks. Both studies build descriptions of latent cognitive variables that are guiding rat behavior. In the first study, we examined behavioral data from a pharmacological inactivation of a prefrontal cortical region known as the Frontal Orienting Fields (FOF). Inactivation of the FOF during decision making produced strong biases in the rats behavior. I developed a neural model to ask what functional role of the FOF could explain these results: evidence integration, decision formation, or post-decision memory. The modeling study concluded that only a post-decision memory role can explain the data. In the second study, I developed a decision making task in a dynamic environment. The ideal observer in a dynamic environment must integrate evidence over time, but also discount old evidence that may no longer be informative of the current state of the environment. Using a task with discrete pulses of evidence, exactly computed the dynamics of the ideal observer over time. The optimal timescale for discounting is dependent on the experimenter-controlled statistics, but also the subject’s accuracy in detecting the noisy evidence. When incorporating both of these factors, I find that rats adopt the optimal timescale for evidence accumulation and discounting. I developed a behavioral model to track the moment-by-moment dynamics of the accumulated evidence within each trial. Both of these studies developed quantitative descriptions of cognitive decision variables evolving with the rat’s brains during each trial of a decision making task. Detailed descriptions of cognitive variable dynamics can then be used in the analysis of neural data to investigate the neural mechanisms underlying decision making.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Neuroscience

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