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A general recurrent state space framework for modeling neural dynamics during decision-making

David Zoltowski · Jonathan Pillow · Scott Linderman

Keywords: [ Approximate Inference ] [ Neuroscience and Cognitive Science ] [ Time Series and Sequence Models ] [ Applications - Neuroscience, Cognitive Science, Biology and Health ]


An open question in systems and computational neuroscience is how neural circuits accumulate evidence towards a decision. Fitting models of decision-making theory to neural activity helps answer this question, but current approaches limit the number of these models that we can fit to neural data. Here we propose a general framework for modeling neural activity during decision-making. The framework includes the canonical drift-diffusion model and enables extensions such as multi-dimensional accumulators, variable and collapsing boundaries, and discrete jumps. Our framework is based on constraining the parameters of recurrent state space models, for which we introduce a scalable variational Laplace EM inference algorithm. We applied the modeling approach to spiking responses recorded from monkey parietal cortex during two decision-making tasks. We found that a two-dimensional accumulator better captured the responses of a set of parietal neurons than a single accumulator model, and we identified a variable lower boundary in the responses of a parietal neuron during a random dot motion task. We expect this framework will be useful for modeling neural dynamics in a variety of decision-making settings.

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