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      Distinct mechanisms mediate speed-accuracy adjustments in cortico-subthalamic networks

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          Optimal decision-making requires balancing fast but error-prone and more accurate but slower decisions through adjustments of decision thresholds. Here, we demonstrate two distinct correlates of such speed-accuracy adjustments by recording subthalamic nucleus (STN) activity and electroencephalography in 11 Parkinson’s disease patients during a perceptual decision-making task; STN low-frequency oscillatory (LFO) activity (2–8 Hz), coupled to activity at prefrontal electrode Fz, and STN beta activity (13–30 Hz) coupled to electrodes C3/C4 close to motor cortex. These two correlates differed not only in their cortical topography and spectral characteristics but also in the relative timing of recruitment and in their precise relationship with decision thresholds. Increases of STN LFO power preceding the response predicted increased thresholds only after accuracy instructions, while cue-induced reductions of STN beta power decreased thresholds irrespective of instructions. These findings indicate that distinct neural mechanisms determine whether a decision will be made in haste or with caution.


          eLife digest

          In everyday decisions, we have to balance how quickly we need to make a decision with how accurate we want our decision to be. For example, if you plan your next holiday you might want to make sure that you pick the best destination without caring too much about the time it takes to arrive at that decision. On the other hand, in your lunch break you might want to quickly choose between the different meals on the menu to make sure you are back at work on time, even though you might overlook a dish that you would have preferred. This effect – that decisions we make in haste are more likely to be suboptimal than slower, more deliberate decisions – is known as the speed-accuracy trade-off.

          One theory suggests that the activity of a brain area termed the subthalamic nucleus reflects whether people will prioritize speed or accuracy during decision-making. This area is seated deep inside the brain, meaning that it is normally difficult to record its activity.

          Herz et al. have now recorded the activity of the subthalamic nucleus in individuals with Parkinson’s disease who underwent brain surgery as part of their treatment. When these individuals switched between fast and cautious decision-making, the activity in the subthalamic nucleus changed, as did its relationship with the activity seen in other brain areas. Furthermore, these activity changes predicted how much information participants acquired before committing to a choice.

          Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus is now a standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease. It will be important to assess whether this treatment affects the changes in subthalamic activity that are related to decision-making, and whether this affects whether an individual is more likely to make fast or accurate decisions.


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              PsychoPy—Psychophysics software in Python

              The vast majority of studies into visual processing are conducted using computer display technology. The current paper describes a new free suite of software tools designed to make this task easier, using the latest advances in hardware and software. PsychoPy is a platform-independent experimental control system written in the Python interpreted language using entirely free libraries. PsychoPy scripts are designed to be extremely easy to read and write, while retaining complete power for the user to customize the stimuli and environment. Tools are provided within the package to allow everything from stimulus presentation and response collection (from a wide range of devices) to simple data analysis such as psychometric function fitting. Most importantly, PsychoPy is highly extensible and the whole system can evolve via user contributions. If a user wants to add support for a particular stimulus, analysis or hardware device they can look at the code for existing examples, modify them and submit the modifications back into the package so that the whole community benefits.

                Author and article information

                eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd
                31 January 2017
                : 6
                [1 ]Medical Research Council Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford , Oxford, United Kingdom
                [2 ]deptNuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences , John Radcliffe Hospital, University of Oxford , Oxford, United Kingdom
                [3 ]deptDepartment of Neurosurgery , King’s College Hospital , London, United Kingdom
                [4 ]deptUnit of Functional Neurosurgery, Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders , University College London Institute of Neurology , London, United Kingdom
                NYU , United States
                NYU , United States
                Author notes
                © 2017, Herz et al

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

                Funded by: FundRef, Medical Research Council;
                Award ID: MC_UU_12024/1
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: FundRef, Horizon 2020 Framework Programme;
                Award ID: 655605
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Parkinson Appeal UK;
                Award Recipient :
                Funded by: Monument Trust;
                Award Recipient :
                The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                Dynamic changes in activity and connectivity of the human subthalamic nucleus reflect whether a decision will be made in haste or with caution.

                Life sciences

                speed-accuracy tradeoff, decision thresholds, human, subthalamic nucleus


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