Linking the brain with behavior: the neural dynamics of success and failure in goal-directed behavior

Amanda K. Robinson*, Anina N. Rich, Alexandra Woolgar

*Corresponding author for this work

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    The human brain is extremely flexible and capable of rapidly selecting relevant information in accordance with task goals. Regions of frontoparietal cortex flexibly represent relevant task information such as task rules and stimulus features when participants perform tasks successfully, but less is known about how information processing breaks down when participants make mistakes. This is important for understanding whether and when information coding recorded with neuroimaging is directly meaningful for behavior. Here, we used magnetoencephalography to assess the temporal dynamics of information processingandlinkedneuralresponses with goal-directed behavior by analyzing how they changed on behavioral error. Participants performed a difficult stimulus–response task using two stimulus–response mapping rules. We used time-resolved multivariate pattern analysis to characterize the progression of information coding from perceptual information about the stimulus, cue and rule coding, and finally, motor response. Response-aligned analyses revealed a ramping up of perceptual information before a correct response, suggestive of internal evidence accumulation. Strikingly, when participants made a stimulus-related error, and not when they made other types of errors, patterns of activity initially reflected the stimulus presented, but later reversed, and accumulated toward a representation of the “incorrect” stimulus. This suggests that the patterns recorded at later time points reflect an internally generated stimulus representation that was used to make the (incorrect) decision. These results illustrate the orderly and overlapping temporal dynamics of information coding in perceptual decision-making and show a clear link between neural patterns in the late stages of processing and behavior.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)639-654
    Number of pages16
    JournalJournal of cognitive neuroscience
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

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