Trial-by-trial correlations between neural responses and choices (choice probabilities) are often interpreted to reflect a causal contribution of neurons to task performance. However, choice probabilities may arise from top-down, rather than bottom-up, signals. We isolated distinct sensory and decision contributions to single-unit activity recorded from the dorsal medial superior temporal (MSTd) and ventral intraparietal (VIP) areas of monkeys during perception of self-motion. Superficially, neurons in both areas show similar tuning curves during task performance. However, tuning in MSTd neurons primarily reflects sensory inputs, whereas choice-related signals dominate tuning in VIP neurons. Importantly, the choice-related activity of VIP neurons is not predictable from their stimulus tuning, and these factors are often confounded in choice probability measurements. This finding was confirmed in a subset of neurons for which stimulus tuning was measured during passive fixation. Our findings reveal decoupled stimulus and choice signals in the VIP area, and challenge our understanding of choice signals in the brain.
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© 2017 The Author(s).