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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

June 2016, Vol. 28, No. 6, Pages 811-825
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00934)
© 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Decisions Made with Less Evidence Involve Higher Levels of Corticosubthalamic Nucleus Theta Band Synchrony
Article PDF (1.24 MB)

The switch between automatic action selection and more controlled forms of decision-making is a dynamic process thought to involve both cortical and subcortical structures. During sensory conflict, medial pFC oscillations in the theta band (<8 Hz) drive those of the subthalamic nucleus (STN), and this is thought to increase the threshold of evidence needed for one competing response to be selected over another. Here, we were interested in testing whether STN activity is also altered by the rate at which evidence is presented during a congruent dot motion task absent of any explicit sensory conflict. By having a series of randomly moving dots gradually transform to congruent motion at three different rates (slow, medium, fast), we were able to show that a slower rate increased the time it took participants to make a response but did not alter the total amount of evidence that was integrated before the response. Notably, this resulted in a decision being made with a lower amount of instantaneous evidence during the slow and medium trials. Consistent with the idea that medial pFC–STN activity is involved in executing cognitive control, the higher levels of ambiguity during these trials were associated with increased theta band synchrony between the cortex and the STN, with the cortical oscillations Granger-causal to those of the STN. These results further confirm the involvement of the STN in decision-making and suggest that the disruption of this network may underlie some of the unwanted cognitive deficits associated with STN deep brain stimulation.