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Learning and experience are known to improve our ability to make perceptual decisions. Yet, our understanding of the brain mechanisms that support improved perceptual decisions through training remains limited. Here, we test the neurochemical and functional interactions that support learning for perceptual decisions in the context of an orientation identification task. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), we measure neurotransmitters (i.e., glutamate, GABA) that are known to be involved in visual processing and learning in sensory [early visual cortex (EV)] and decision-related [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)] brain regions. Using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (rs-fMRI), we test for functional interactions between these regions that relate to decision processes. We demonstrate that training improves perceptual judgments (i.e., orientation identification), as indicated by faster rates of evidence accumulation after training. These learning-dependent changes in decision processes relate to lower EV glutamate levels and EV-DLPFC connectivity, suggesting that glutamatergic excitation and functional interactions between visual and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex facilitate perceptual decisions. Further, anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) in EV impairs learning, suggesting a direct link between visual cortex excitation and perceptual decisions. Our findings advance our understanding of the role of learning in perceptual decision making, suggesting that glutamatergic excitation for efficient sensory processing and functional interactions between sensory and decision-related regions support improved perceptual decisions.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Combining multimodal brain imaging [magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), functional connectivity] with interventions [transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)], we demonstrate that glutamatergic excitation and functional interactions between sensory (visual) and decision-related (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) areas support our ability to optimize perceptual decisions through training.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurophysiol

Publication Date





900 - 912


MR spectroscopy, functional connectivity, learning, perceptual decisions, transcranial direct current stimulation, Brain, Glutamic Acid, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Prefrontal Cortex, Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, Visual Cortex