Striatal activation reflects urgency in perceptual decision making

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Deciding between multiple courses of action often entails an increasing need to do something as time passes - a sense of urgency. This notion of urgency is not incorporated in standard theories of speeded decision making that assume information is accumulated until a critical fixed threshold is reached. Yet, it is hypothesized in novel theoretical models of decision making. In two experiments, we investigated the behavioral and neural evidence for an “urgency signal” in human perceptual decision making. Experiment 1 found that as the duration of the decision making process increased, participants made a choice based on less evidence for the selected option. Experiment 2 replicated this finding, and additionally found that variability in this effect across participants covaried with activation in the striatum. We conclude that individual differences in susceptibility to urgency are reflected by striatal activation. By dynamically updating a response threshold, the striatum is involved in signaling urgency in humans.

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