Reward-based decision signals in parietal cortex are partially embodied

Jan Kubanek, Lawrence H. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations


Recordings in the lateral intraparietal area (LIP) reveal that parietal cortex encodes variables related to spatial decision-making, the selection of desirable targets in space. It has been unclear whether parietal cortex is involved in spatial decision-making in general, or whether specific parietal compartments subserve decisions made using specific actions. To test this, we engaged monkeys (Macaca mulatta) in a reward-based decision task in which they selected a target based on its desirability. The animals’ choice behavior in this task followed the molar matching law, and in each trial was governed by the desirability of the choice targets. Critically, animals were instructed to make the choice using one of two actions: eye movements (saccades) and arm movements (reaches). We recorded the discharge activity of neurons in area LIP and the parietal reach region (PRR) of the parietal cortex. In line with previous studies, we found that both LIP and PRR encode a reward-based decision variable, the target desirability. Crucially, the target desirability was encoded in LIP at least twice as strongly when choices were made using saccades compared with reaches. In contrast, PRR encoded target desirability only for reaches and not for saccades. These data suggest that decisions can evolve in dedicated parietal circuits in the context of specific actions. This finding supports the hypothesis of an intentional representation of developing decisions in parietal cortex. Furthermore, the close link between the cognitive (decision-related) and bodily (action-related) processes presents a neural contribution to the theories of embodied cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4869-4881
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015


  • Decision making
  • Eye (saccade)
  • Hand (reach)
  • Lip
  • Matching law
  • Parietal reach region

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