Prediction of Choice from Competing Mechanosensory and Choice-Memory Cues During Active Tactile Decision Making
Perceptual decision making is an active process where animals move their sense organs to extract task-relevant information. To investigate how the brain translates sensory input into decisions during active sensation, we developed a mouse active touch task where the mechanosensory input can be precisely measured and that challenges animals to use multiple mechanosensory cues. Mice were trained to localise a pole using a single whisker and to report their decision by selecting one of three choices. Using high-speed imaging and machine vision we estimated whisker-object mechanical forces at millisecond resolution. Mice solved the task by a sensory-motor strategy where both the strength and direction of whisker bending were informative cues to pole location. We found competing influences of immediate sensory input and choice memory on mouse choice. On correct trials, choice could be predicted from the direction and strength of whisker bending, but not from previous choice. In contrast, on error trials, choice could be predicted from previous choice but not from whisker bending. This study shows that animal choices during active tactile decision making can be predicted from mechanosenory and choice-memory signals; and provides a new task, well-suited for future study of the neural basis of active perceptual decisions.