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This article is part of the Research Topic Neurobiology of Choice

Original Research ARTICLE

Front. Neurosci., 17 October 2011 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2011.00122

The relationship between saccadic choice and reaction times with manipulations of target value

  • Department of Physiology, Center for Neuroscience Studies, Canadian Institutes of Health Research Group in Sensory-Motor Neuroscience, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada

Choosing the option with the highest expected value (EV; reward probability × reward magnitude) maximizes the intake of reward under conditions of uncertainty. However, human economic choices indicate that our value calculation has a subjective component whereby probability and reward magnitude are not linearly weighted. Using a similar economic framework, our goal was to characterize how subjective value influences the generation of simple motor actions. Specifically, we hypothesized that attributes of saccadic eye movements could provide insight into how rhesus monkeys, a well-studied animal model in cognitive neuroscience, subjectively value potential visual targets. In the first experiment, monkeys were free to choose by directing a saccade toward one of two simultaneously displayed targets, each of which had an uncertain outcome. In this task, choices were more likely to be allocated toward the higher valued target. In the second experiment, only one of the two possible targets appeared on each trial. In this task, saccadic reaction times (SRTs) decreased toward the higher valued target. Reward magnitude had a much stronger influence on both choices and SRTs than probability, whose effect was observed only when reward magnitude was similar for both targets. Across EV blocks, a strong relationship was observed between choice preferences and SRTs. However, choices tended to maximize at skewed values whereas SRTs varied more continuously. Lastly, SRTs were unchanged when all reward magnitudes were 1×, 1.5×, and 2× their normal amount, indicating that saccade preparation was influenced by the relative value of the targets rather than the absolute value of any single-target. We conclude that value is not only an important factor for deliberative decision making in primates, but also for the selection and preparation of simple motor actions, such as saccadic eye movements. More precisely, our results indicate that, under conditions of uncertainty, saccade choices and reaction times are influenced by the relative expected subjective value of potential movements.

Keywords: oculomotor-capture, motor preparation, utility, prospect theory, neuroeconomics, reaction time, reward, probability

Citation: Milstein DM and Dorris MC (2011) The relationship between saccadic choice and reaction times with manipulations of target value. Front. Neurosci. 5:122. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2011.00122

Received: 14 June 2011; Accepted: 22 September 2011;
Published online: 17 October 2011.

Edited by:

Daeyeol Lee, Yale University School of Medicine, USA

Reviewed by:

Terrence R. Stanford, Wake Forest University, USA
Veit Stuphorn, Johns Hopkins University, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Milstein and Dorris. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: Michael C. Dorris, Center for Neuroscience Studies, Queen’s University, Botterell Hall, Room 440, Kingston, ON, Canada K7L 3N6. e-mail: dorrism@biomed.queensu.ca