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Pouget A.,University of Geneva | Pouget A.,University of Rochester | Pouget A.,Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit | Drugowitsch J.,University of Geneva | Kepecs A.,Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Nature Neuroscience | Year: 2016

When facing uncertainty, adaptive behavioral strategies demand that the brain performs probabilistic computations. In this probabilistic framework, the notion of certainty and confidence would appear to be closely related, so much so that it is tempting to conclude that these two concepts are one and the same. We argue that there are computational reasons to distinguish between these two concepts. Specifically, we propose that confidence should be defined as the probability that a decision or a proposition, overt or covert, is correct given the evidence, a critical quantity in complex sequential decisions. We suggest that the term certainty should be reserved to refer to the encoding of all other probability distributions over sensory and cognitive variables. We also discuss strategies for studying the neural codes for confidence and certainty and argue that clear definitions of neural codes are essential to understanding the relative contributions of various cortical areas to decision making. © 2016 Nature America, Inc. All rights reserved.

Kanitscheider I.,University of Geneva | Kanitscheider I.,University of Texas at Austin | Brown A.,Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory | Pouget A.,University of Rochester | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Neurophysiology | Year: 2015

A large body of evidence suggests that an approximate number sense allows humans to estimate numerosity in sensory scenes. This ability is widely observed in humans, including those without formal mathematical training. Despite this, many outstanding questions remain about the nature of the numerosity representation in the brain. Specifically, it is not known whether approximate numbers are represented as scalar estimates of numerosity or, alternatively, as probability distributions over numerosity. In the present study, we used a multisensory decision task to distinguish these possibilities. We trained human subjects to decide whether a test stimulus had a larger or smaller numerosity compared with a fixed reference. Depending on the trial, the numerosity was presented as either a sequence of visual flashes or a sequence of auditory tones, or both. To test for a probabilistic representation, we varied the reliability of the stimulus by adding noise to the visual stimuli. In accordance with a probabilistic representation, we observed a significant improvement in multisensory compared with unisensory trials. Furthermore, a trial-by-trial analysis revealed that although individual subjects showed strategic differences in how they leveraged auditory and visual information, all subjects exploited the reliability of unisensory cues. An alternative, nonprobabilistic model, in which subjects combined cues without regard for reliability, was not able to account for these trial-by-trial choices. These findings provide evidence that the brain relies on a probabilistic representation for numerosity decisions. © 2015 the American Physiological Society.

Gretton A.,MPI for Intelligent Systems | Gretton A.,Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit | Borgwardt K.M.,Max Planck Institutes Tubingen | Rasch M.J.,Beijing Normal University | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Machine Learning Research | Year: 2012

We propose a framework for analyzing and comparing distributions, which we use to construct statistical tests to determine if two samples are drawn from different distributions. Our test statistic is the largest difference in expectations over functions in the unit ball of a reproducing kernel Hilbert space (RKHS), and is called the maximum mean discrepancy (MMD).We present two distributionfree tests based on large deviation bounds for the MMD, and a third test based on the asymptotic distribution of this statistic. The MMD can be computed in quadratic time, although efficient linear time approximations are available. Our statistic is an instance of an integral probability metric, and various classical metrics on distributions are obtained when alternative function classes are used in place of an RKHS. We apply our two-sample tests to a variety of problems, including attribute matching for databases using the Hungarian marriage method, where they perform strongly. Excellent performance is also obtained when comparing distributions over graphs, for which these are the first such tests. © 2012 Arthur Gretton, Karsten M. Borgwardt, Malte J. Rasch, Bernhard Schölkopf and Alexander Smola.

Kanitscheider I.,University of Geneva | Kanitscheider I.,University of Texas at Austin | Coen-Cagli R.,University of Geneva | Kohn A.,Yeshiva University | And 3 more authors.
PLoS Computational Biology | Year: 2015

Neural responses are known to be variable. In order to understand how this neural variability constrains behavioral performance, we need to be able to measure the reliability with which a sensory stimulus is encoded in a given population. However, such measures are challenging for two reasons: First, they must take into account noise correlations which can have a large influence on reliability. Second, they need to be as efficient as possible, since the number of trials available in a set of neural recording is usually limited by experimental constraints. Traditionally, cross-validated decoding has been used as a reliability measure, but it only provides a lower bound on reliability and underestimates reliability substantially in small datasets. We show that, if the number of trials per condition is larger than the number of neurons, there is an alternative, direct estimate of reliability which consistently leads to smaller errors and is much faster to compute. The superior performance of the direct estimator is evident both for simulated data and for neuronal population recordings from macaque primary visual cortex. Furthermore we propose generalizations of the direct estimator which measure changes in stimulus encoding across conditions and the impact of correlations on encoding and decoding, typically denoted by Ishuffle and Idiag respectively. © 2015 Kanitscheider et al.

Bahrami B.,University College London | Bahrami B.,Aarhus University Hospital | Olsen K.,Aarhus University Hospital | Latham P.E.,Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit | And 4 more authors.
Science | Year: 2010

In everyday life, many people believe that two heads are better than one. Our ability to solve problems together appears to be fundamental to the current dominance and future survival of the human species. But are two heads really better than one? We addressed this question in the context of a collective low-level perceptual decision-making task. For two observers of nearly equal visual sensitivity, two heads were definitely better than one, provided they were given the opportunity to communicate freely, even in the absence of any feedback about decision outcomes. But for observers with very different visual sensitivities, two heads were actually worse than the better one. These seemingly discrepant patterns of group behavior can be explained by a model in which two heads are Bayes optimal under the assumption that individuals accurately communicate their level of confidence on every trial.

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