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Visual Decision Making Section

About our work

The Visual Decision Making Section seeks to help uncover the mechanisms and circuitry of visually guided decision-making. How are such decisions influenced by behavioral and cognitive context? How do neuromodulatory circuits influence the encoding of the incoming visual signals in the visual cortex? How are these combined signals used to guide behavior in healthy mammalian brains? Answering these questions is aimed at improving our understanding of how these mechanisms fail in psychiatric and neurological diseases. To address these questions we combine computational, behavioral, pharmacological, optogenetic and large-scale electrophysiological approaches in mammals, and, through collaboration, machine-learning techniques.


Selected publications

Quinn, Seillier, Butts, Nienborg, Decision-related feedback in visual cortex lacks spatial selectivity Nat Commun (2021) 12, Article number: 4473

Nienborg, Meyer Neuroscience needs behavior: inferring psychophysical strategy trial-by-trial. Neuron (2021) 109:561-563 doi:

Macke, Nienborg Choice (-history) correlations in sensory cortex: cause or consequence? Current Opin Neurobiol (2019) 58:148-154. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2019.09.005

Bellet ME, Bellet J, Nienborg, Hafed, Berens Human-level saccade detection performance using deep neural networks. J Neurophysiol. (2019) 121:646-661.

Kawaguchi, Clery, Seillier, Pourriahi, Haefner, Nienborg: Differentiating between Models of Perceptual Decision Making Using Pupil Size Inferred Confidence J Neurosci (2018) 38:8874-8888.

Jacob, Nienborg: Monoaminergic neuromodulation of sensory processing Front Neural Circuits (2018) 10;12:51. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2018.00051

Bi, Jin, Nienborg, Xiao: Estimating cloth stiffness from videos using dense motion trajectories psychophysics and machine learning Journal of Vision (2018) 18:12.

Naselaris, Bassett, Fletcher, Kording, Kriegeskorte, Nienborg, Poldrack, Shohamy, Kay: Cognitive Computational Neuroscience: A New Conference for an Emerging Discipline. Trends in Cognitive Sciences (2018) 22:365-367.

Lueckmann, Macke*, Nienborg*: Can serial dependencies in choices and neural activity explain choice probability? J Neurosci, (2018) 38:3495-3506.

Seillier*, Lorenz*, Kawaguchi, Ott, Nieder, Pourriahi, Nienborg: Serotonin decreases the gain of visual responses in awake macaque V1 J Neurosci, (2017): 37:11390-405 (* equal contribution)

Clery, Cumming, Nienborg: Decision-Related Activity in Macaque V2 for Fine Disparity Discrimination Is Not Compatible with Optimal Linear Readout. J Neurosci, (2017): 37:715-25

Cumming, Nienborg: Feedback and feedforward sources of choice-probability in neural population responses. Current Opin Neurobiol, (2016): 37: 126-32

Nienborg, Roelfsema: Belief states as a framework to explain extra-retinal influences in visual cortex. Current Opin Neurobiol, (2015): 32: 45-52.

Nienborg, Cumming: Decision-related activity in sensory neurons may depend on the columnar architecture of cerebral cortex.  J Neurosci, (2014): 34: 3579-85.

Nienborg, Hasenstaub, Nauhaus, Taniguchi, Huang, Callaway: Contrast dependence and differential contributions of somatostatin and parvalbumin expressing neurons to spatial integration in mouse V1. J Neurosci, (2013): 33: 11145-54.

Nienborg*, Cohen*, Cumming: Decision-Related Activity in Sensory Neurons: Correlations among Neurons and with Behavior. Ann Rev Neurosci (2012): 35:463-83 *equal contribution

Nienborg, Cumming: Correlations between the activity of sensory neurons and behavior: how much do they tell us about causality?  Current Opin Neurobiol, (2010): 20:376-81

Nienborg, Cumming: Decision-related activity in sensory neurons reflects more than a neuron’s causal effect. Nature, (2009): 459:89-92

Nienborg, Cumming: Psychophysically measured task strategy for disparity discrimination is reflected in V2 neurons. Nature Neuroscience, (2007): 10:1608-14

Nienborg, Cumming: Macaque V2 neurons, but not V1 neurons, show choice-related Activity. J Neurosci, (2006): 26:9567-78

Nienborg, Bridge, Parker, Cumming:  Neuronal Computation of Disparity in V1 Limits Temporal Resolution for Disparity Modulation, J Neurosci, (2005): 25:10207-19

Visual Decision Making Section key staff

Key staff table
Name Title Email Phone
Adam Lazere, B.S. Postbaccalaureate IRTA 301-496-9375
Emily Meyer, B.S. Postbaccalaureate IRTA 301-496-9375
Hendrikje Nienborg, M.D., Ph.D. Investigator 301-496-3549

News from this lab

Two hat-shaped objects, one pointing towards the viewer (concave) and one away from the viewer (convex)

Scientists uncover how decisions about what we see are relayed back through the brain

July 27, 2021

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have discovered that decisions based on visual information is broadcast widely to neurons in the visual system, including to those that are not being used to make the decision.
A scale with left superior colliculus neurons more activated on left and right superior colliculus neurons less activated on the right, and scale weighed down to the left. Needle on scale points to “yes”, meaning detection of relevant event.

NIH researchers discover neural code that predicts behavior

November 26, 2018

Scientists at the National Eye Institute (NEI) have found that neurons in the superior colliculus, an ancient midbrain structure found in all vertebrates, are key players in allowing us to detect visual objects and events.

NEI Investigator Hikosaka Awarded Gruber Prize in Neuroscience

November 1, 2018

Dr. Okihide Hikosaka, senior investigator at the National Eye Institute (NEI) Laboratory of Sensorimotor Research, is a recipient of the 2018 Gruber Prize in Neuroscience.

Last updated: July 23, 2021