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Title: Dissociable sources of uncertainty in perceptual decision making
Author: Michael, Elizabeth
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2016
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The natural world provides sensory systems with noisy and ambiguous information, which is often transformed into a more stable categorical percept. This thesis aims to investigate the nature of the neural representations in the visual system that support this transformation. To do so, we will employ a behavioural task that requires participants to average several independent sources of perceptual information. This task allows for the dissociation of two theoretically orthogonal sources of decision uncertainty: the mean distance of the perceptual information from a category boundary and the variability of the evidence under consideration. Behaviourally, both decreasing the mean distance to bound of information and increasing information variability are associated with increased errors and prolonged response times. We will present a computational model that can account for the independent behavioural effects of these two sources of uncertainty by assuming that categorical decisions are made on the basis of a probabilistic transformation of perceptual evidence. BOLD measurements demonstrate that these effects of mean and variability are supported by a partially dissociable network of brain regions. Electroencephalography demonstrates the differential influence of mean and variance in the pre- and post-decision period. Furthermore, we show that there is adaptation at the level of the perceptual representation to the information variance. Not only does this show that the visual system must represent information at the summary level, in addition to individual feature-based representation, but it also suggests that the costs associated with this form of perceptual uncertainty can be largely mitigated by the adoption of a more suitable representational range.
Supervisor: Summerfield, Christopher Sponsor: Medical Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Neuroscience ; Cognitive Neuroscience ; Computational Neuroscience ; Psychology ; Cognition ; Experimental psychology ; Perception ; Attention ; fMRI ; EEG ; perception ; decision making ; gain control ; summary representation ; categorisation ; perceptual adaptation ; priming