Pupil-linked phasic arousal predicts a reduction of choice bias across species and decision domains

Jan Willem de Gee, Konstantinos Tsetsos, Lars Schwabe, Anne E Urai, David McCormick, Matthew J McGinley, Tobias H Donner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Decisions are often made by accumulating ambiguous evidence over time. The brain's arousal systems are activated during such decisions. In previous work in humans, we found that evoked responses of arousal systems during decisions are reported by rapid dilations of the pupil and track a suppression of biases in the accumulation of decision-relevant evidence (de Gee et al., 2017). Here, we show that this arousal-related suppression in decision bias acts on both conservative and liberal biases, and generalizes from humans to mice, and from perceptual to memory-based decisions. In challenging sound-detection tasks, the impact of spontaneous or experimentally induced choice biases was reduced under high phasic arousal. Similar bias suppression occurred when evidence was drawn from memory. All of these behavioral effects were explained by reduced evidence accumulation biases. Our results point to a general principle of interplay between phasic arousal and decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020, de Gee et al.


  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Arousal/physiology
  • Choice Behavior/physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Pupil/physiology
  • Species Specificity
  • Young Adult


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