PublicatiesLearning a New Selection Rule in Visual and Frontal Cortex
How do you make a decision if you do not know the rules of the game? Models of sensory decision-making suggest that choices are slow if evidence is weak, but they may only apply if the subject knows the task rules. Here, we asked how the learning of a new rule influences neuronal activity in the visual (area V1) and frontal cortex (area FEF) of monkeys. We devised a new icon-selection task. On each day, the monkeys saw 2 new icons (small pictures) and learned which one was relevant. We rewarded eye movements to a saccade target connected to the relevant icon with a curve. Neurons in visual and frontal cortex coded the monkey’s choice, because the representation of the selected curve was enhanced. Learning delayed the neuronal selection signals and we uncovered the cause of this delay in V1, where learning to select the relevant icon caused an early suppression of surrounding image elements. These results demonstrate that the learning of a new rule causes a transition from fast and random decisions to a more considerate strategy that takes additional time and they reveal the contribution of visual and frontal cortex to the learning process.