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Lapses in perceptual decisions reflect exploration.

  • Author(s): Pisupati, Sashank;
  • Chartarifsky-Lynn, Lital;
  • Khanal, Anup;
  • Churchland, Anne K
  • et al.

Perceptual decision-makers often display a constant rate of errors independent of evidence strength. These 'lapses' are treated as a nuisance arising from noise tangential to the decision, e.g. inattention or motor errors. Here, we use a multisensory decision task in rats to demonstrate that these explanations cannot account for lapses' stimulus dependence. We propose a novel explanation: lapses reflect a strategic trade-off between exploiting known rewarding actions and exploring uncertain ones. We tested this model's predictions by selectively manipulating one action's reward magnitude or probability. As uniquely predicted by this model, changes were restricted to lapses associated with that action. Finally, we show that lapses are a powerful tool for assigning decision-related computations to neural structures based on disruption experiments (here, posterior striatum and secondary motor cortex). These results suggest that lapses reflect an integral component of decision-making and are informative about action values in normal and disrupted brain states.

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