Cortical alpha activity predicts the confidence in an impending action.

TitleCortical alpha activity predicts the confidence in an impending action.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsKubánek, J, N. Hill, J, Snyder, LH, Schalk, G
JournalFront. Neurosci
Start Page
Date Published07/2015
Keywordscertainty, EEG, human, neural correlates, perceptual decision-making

When we make a decision, we experience a degree of confidence that our choice may lead to a desirable outcome. Recent studies in animals have probed the subjective aspects of the choice confidence using confidence-reporting tasks. These studies showed that estimates of the choice confidence substantially modulate neural activity in multiple regions of the brain. Building on these findings, we investigated the neural representation of the confidence in a choice in humans who explicitly reported the confidence in their choice. Subjects performed a perceptual decision task in which they decided between choosing a button press or a saccade while we recorded EEG activity. Following each choice, subjects indicated whether they were sure or unsure about the choice. We found that alpha activity strongly encodes a subject's confidence level in a forthcoming button press choice. The neural effect of the subjects' confidence was independent of the reaction time and independent of the sensory input modeled as a decision variable. Furthermore, the effect is not due to a general cognitive state, such as reward expectation, because the effect was specifically observed during button press choices and not during saccade choices. The neural effect of the confidence in the ensuing button press choice was strong enough that we could predict, from independent single trial neural signals, whether a subject was going to be sure or unsure of an ensuing button press choice. In sum, alpha activity in human cortex provides a window into the commitment to make a hand movement.

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