Behavior- and Modality-General Representation of Confidence in Orbitofrontal Cortex.
Masset P., Ott T., Lak A., Hirokawa J., Kepecs A.
Every decision we make is accompanied by a sense of confidence about its likely outcome. This sense informs subsequent behavior, such as investing more-whether time, effort, or money-when reward is more certain. A neural representation of confidence should originate from a statistical computation and predict confidence-guided behavior. An additional requirement for confidence representations to support metacognition is abstraction: they should emerge irrespective of the source of information and inform multiple confidence-guided behaviors. It is unknown whether neural confidence signals meet these criteria. Here, we show that single orbitofrontal cortex neurons in rats encode statistical decision confidence irrespective of the sensory modality, olfactory or auditory, used to make a choice. The activity of these neurons also predicts two confidence-guided behaviors: trial-by-trial time investment and cross-trial choice strategy updating. Orbitofrontal cortex thus represents decision confidence consistent with a metacognitive process that is useful for mediating confidence-guided economic decisions.