Neural Correlates of Speed-Accuracy Tradeoff: An Electrophysiological Analysis
Heitz, Richard Philip
MetadataShow full item record
Recent computational models and physiological studies suggest that simple, two-alternative forced-choice decision making can be conceptualized as the gradual accumulation of sensory evidence. Accordingly, information is sampled over time from a sensory stimulus, giving rise to an activation function. A response is emitted when this function reaches a criterion level of activity. Critically, the phenomenon known as speed-accuracy tradeoff (SAT) is modeled as a shift in the response boundaries (criterion). As speed stress increases and criterion is lowered, the information function travels less distance before reaching threshold. This leads to faster overall responses, but also an increase in error rate, given that less information is accumulated. Psychophysiological data using EEG and single-unit recordings from monkey cortex suggest that these accumulator models are biologically plausible. The present work is an effort to strengthen this position. Specifically, it seeks to demonstrate a neural correlate of criterion and demonstrate its relationship to behavior. To do so, subjects performed a letter discrimination paradigm under three levels of speed stress. At the same time, electroencephalogram (EEG) was used to derive a measure known as the lateralized readiness potential, which is known to reflect ongoing motor preparation in motor cortex. In Experiment 1, the amplitude of the LRP was related to speed stress: as subjects were forced to respond more quickly, less information was accumulated before making a response. In other words, criterion lowered. These data are complicated by Experiment 2, which found that there are boundary conditions for this effect to obtain.