May 16, 2015

Stochastic models of evidence accumulation in changing environments

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Alan Veliz-CubaKresimir Josic


Organisms and ecological groups accumulate evidence to make decisions. Classic experiments and theoretical studies have explored decisions between alternatives when the correct choice is fixed during a trial. However, the natural world constantly changes. Using sequential analysis we derive equations for the likelihood of different choices, when the correct option changes in time. Our analysis shows that ideal observers discount prior evidence at a rate determined by the volatility of the environment. Nondimensionalization shows that the dynamics of evidence accumulation is governed solely by the information gained over an average environmental epoch. A plausible neural implementation of an optimal observer in a changing environment shows that, in contrast with previous models, neural populations representing alternate choices are coupled through excitation.

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Theoretical Study
Clinical Trials
Research Study

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