Torben Ott: From statistics to neurons – a cortical circuit for decision confidence

Washington University in St. Louis

How confident are you? As humans, aware of our subjective sense of confidence, we can readily answer. Knowing your level of confidence helps to optimize both routine decisions such as whether to go back and check if the front door was locked and momentous ones like finding a partner for life. Yet the inherently subjective nature of confidence has limited investigations by neurobiologists. We have developed a conceptual framework that roots subjective confidence in a statistical computation that can be behaviorally studied in non-human animals, thus enabling to study its neural basis. We allowed rats to invest variable time into decisions with uncertain outcome. Time investment reflected statistical decision confidence and thus provided a behavioral report of confidence. Using tetrode and high-density probe recordings in orbitofrontal cortex, we found that single neurons clustered into functional groups that represented the dynamic processes of a decision algorithm for confidence-guided time investment, such as uncertainty, temporal integration, and thresholding. Optogenetically identified inhibitory interneurons became active just before rats stopped their investment and could thus implement a thresholding computation. Together, our results contribute to establishing a neural circuit model for economic decisions.


Torben Ott will start his new Emmy-Noether Group in 2022 at the BCCN Berlin and the Institute of Biology of HU Berlin.



Organized by

Michael Brecht / Margret Franke

Location: Virtual talk via zoom

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