March 1, 2021

Multiple decisions about one object involve parallel sensory acquisition but time-multiplexed evidence incorporation

The brain is capable of processing several streams of information that bear on different aspects of the same problem. Here we address the problem of making two decisions about one object, by studying difficult perceptual decisions about the color and motion of a dynamic random dot display. We find that the accuracy of one decision is unaffected by the difficulty of the other decision. However, the response times reveal that the two decisions do not form simultaneously. We show that both stimulus dimensions are acquired in parallel for the initial [~]0.1 s but are then incorporated serially in time-multiplexed bouts. Thus there is a bottleneck that precludes updating more than one decision at a time, and a buffer that stores samples of evidence while access to the decision is blocked. We suggest that this bottleneck is responsible for the long timescales of many cognitive operations framed as decisions.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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