Unreliable feedback deteriorates information processing in primary visual cortex.


Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Corporate Member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and the Berlin Institute of Health, Chariteplatz 1, 10117, Berlin, Germany; Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Berlin, Humboldt University Berlin, 10115, Berlin, Germany. Electronic address: [Email]


It is well-established that increased sensory uncertainty impairs perceptual decision-making and leads to degraded neural stimulus representations. Recently, we also showed that providing unreliable feedback to choices leads to changes in perceptual decision-making similar to those of increased stimulus noise: A deterioration in objective task performance, a decrease in subjective confidence and a lower reliance on sensory information for perceptual inference. To investigate the neural basis of such feedback-based changes in perceptual decision-making, in the present study, two groups of healthy human participants (n = 15 each) performed a challenging visual orientation discrimination task while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Critically, one group received reliable feedback regarding their task performance in an intervention phase, whereas the other group correspondingly received unreliable feedback - thereby keeping stimulus information constant. The effects of feedback reliability on performance and stimulus representation in the primary visual cortex (V1) were studied by comparing the pre- and post-intervention test phases between the groups. Compared to participants who received reliable feedback, those receiving unreliable feedback showed a decline in task performance that was paralleled by reduced distinctness of fMRI response patterns in V1. These results show that environmental uncertainty can affect perceptual inference at the earliest cortical processing stages.


Multivariate representation,Perceptual inference,Unreliable feedback,Visual cortex,fMRI,