Decision and action planning signals in human posterior parietal cortex during delayed perceptual choices

Annalisa Tosoni, Maurizio Corbetta, Cinzia Calluso, Giorgia Committeri, Giovanni Pezzulo, G. L. Romani, Gaspare Galati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


During simple perceptual decisions, sensorimotor neurons in monkey fronto-parietal cortex represent a decision variable that guides the transformation of sensory evidence into a motor response, supporting the view that mechanisms for decision-making are closely embedded within sensorimotor structures. Within these structures, however, decision signals can be dissociated from motor signals, thus indicating that sensorimotor neurons can play multiple and independent roles in decision-making and action selection/planning. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine whether response-selective human brain areas encode signals for decision-making or action planning during a task requiring an arbitrary association between face pictures (male vs. female) and specific actions (saccadic eye vs. hand pointing movements). The stimuli were gradually unmasked to stretch the time necessary for decision, thus maximising the temporal separation between decision and action planning. Decision-related signals were measured in parietal and motor/premotor regions showing a preference for the planning/execution of saccadic or pointing movements. In a parietal reach region, decision-related signals were specific for the stimulus category associated with its preferred pointing response. By contrast, a saccade-selective posterior intraparietal sulcus region carried decision-related signals even when the task required a pointing response. Consistent signals were observed in the motor/premotor cortex. Whole-brain analyses indicated that, in our task, the most reliable decision signals were found in the same neural regions involved in response selection. However, decision- and action-related signals within these regions can be dissociated. Differences between the parietal reach region and posterior intraparietal sulcus plausibly depend on their functional specificity rather than on the task structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1370-1383
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Action planning
  • Decision-making
  • Delayed choice
  • Evidence accumulation
  • Stimulus unmasking

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