During deliberation, as the brain considers its options, the neural activity representing the goodness of each option rises toward a threshold, and the choice is often dictated by the option for which the rise is fastest. Here we report a surprising correlate of these activities: saccade vigor. We engaged human subjects in a decision-making task in which they considered effortful options, each requiring walking various durations and inclines. As they deliberated, they made saccades between the symbolic representations of those options. These saccades had no bearing on the effort that they would later expend, yet as they deliberated, saccade velocities increased. The rate of rise in vigor was faster for saccades toward the option that they later indicated as their choice, and encoded the difference in the subjective value of the two effortful options. Once deliberation ended, following a brief delay the subjects indicated their choice by making another saccade. Remarkably, vigor for this saccade dropped to baseline and no longer encoded subjective value. These results are consistent with an urgency model of decision-making in which a global signal in the brain drives both the neural circuits that make decisions, and the neural circuits that make movements. Paradoxically, this common drive is shared between the oculomotor circuits and the decision-making circuits, even when the decision involves effortful expenditure during a future event.
There is a link between the decisions we make and the movements that follow. Not only do we prefer options of greater value, but we also move faster to acquire them. When deliberating between options, neural activity rises to a threshold and the option that wins this race is the one chosen. We report a potential correlate of this in the motor control circuits; during deliberation, saccade vigor to both options rise, but faster for the option ultimately chosen. Thus, our movements appear to mirror the neural activity conducting the decision-making process. Paradoxically, this is true even when the movements have no direct bearing on the decision at hand.