Even so, neuron-behavior correlations in this and BMS-777607 other discrimination and detection tasks have had limited utility for understanding the algorithm by which information is read out from sensory areas. The limitation arises in part because, although neuronal
responses vary over a large range, the behavioral output in these tasks is very reduced. MT neurons, for example, carry information about the motion direction, speed, binocular disparity, size, and location of visual stimuli (Born and Bradley, 2005), but subjects in the direction-discrimination task must simply report whether they saw upward or downward motion. Because the space of possible responses to a moving stimulus is reduced to only two options, many algorithms for reading out information from MT would yield identical performance on the direction-discrimination task and identical Hydroxychloroquine patterns of neuron-behavior correlations. Considering how populations of MT neurons respond to slightly different visual stimuli can reveal how difficult it is to infer readout algorithms from tasks with a binary behavioral output. The left panel of Figure 1A shows responses of a simulated population of MT neurons
to a stimulus moving upward at about 8 deg/s. When performing the direction-discrimination task of Britten and colleagues (1996), one could correctly conclude that the motion was more upward than downward using many different algorithms to read out the population of MT neurons. These potential algorithms include determining the direction tuning of the most active cells, comparing the average responses of all neurons tuned for upward motion with all neurons tuned for downward motion regardless of preferred speed, comparing the responses of the upward- and downward-preferring neurons with preferred speeds of 8 deg/s, or using a number of other algorithms. Each of these algorithms would lead to identical upward choices in the direction discrimination task for many other stimuli, including a stimulus moving slightly to the right of up at a low speed (Figure 1A, middle panel) or a stimulus moving slightly to the
left of upward Rolziracetam at high speed (Figure 1A, right). These algorithms would also lead to qualitatively indistinguishable neuron-behavior correlations in a discrimination task because in MT (and throughout visual cortex), neurons with similar tuning typically have more shared variability than neurons with dissimilar tuning (Cohen and Kohn, 2011 and Huang and Lisberger, 2009). Under all of the algorithms, the monkey would report upward motion when some subset of neurons with near-upward preferred directions fired more than a subset of downward-preferring neurons. On average, neurons with near-upward preferred directions share more variability with each other than with downward-preferring neurons, regardless of whether they actually contribute to the decision.