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Chin. Phys. B, 2016, Vol. 25(7): 078702    DOI: 10.1088/1674-1056/25/7/078702

Physical mechanism of mind changes and tradeoffs among speed, accuracy, and energy cost in brain decision making: Landscape, flux, and path perspectives

Han Yan(闫晗)1,2, Kun Zhang(张坤)2, Jin Wang(汪劲)1,2,3
1 College of Physics, Jilin University, Changchun 130012, China;
2 State Key Laboratory of Electroanalytical Chemistry, Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Changchun 130022, China;
3 Department of Chemistry and Physics, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-3400, USA

Cognitive behaviors are determined by underlying neural networks. Many brain functions, such as learning and memory, have been successfully described by attractor dynamics. For decision making in the brain, a quantitative description of global attractor landscapes has not yet been completely given. Here, we developed a theoretical framework to quantify the landscape associated with the steady state probability distributions and associated steady state curl flux, measuring the degree of non-equilibrium through the degree of detailed balance breaking for decision making. We quantified the decision-making processes with optimal paths from the undecided attractor states to the decided attractor states, which are identified as basins of attractions, on the landscape. Both landscape and flux determine the kinetic paths and speed. The kinetics and global stability of decision making are explored by quantifying the landscape topography through the barrier heights and the mean first passage time. Our theoretical predictions are in agreement with experimental observations: more errors occur under time pressure. We quantitatively explored two mechanisms of the speed-accuracy tradeoff with speed emphasis and further uncovered the tradeoffs among speed, accuracy, and energy cost. Our results imply that there is an optimal balance among speed, accuracy, and the energy cost in decision making. We uncovered the possible mechanisms of changes of mind and how mind changes improve performance in decision processes. Our landscape approach can help facilitate an understanding of the underlying physical mechanisms of cognitive processes and identify the key factors in the corresponding neural networks.

Keywords:  decision making      non-equilibrium landscape and flux      speed-accuracy tradeoff      energy cost  
Received:  20 January 2016      Revised:  20 April 2016      Published:  05 July 2016
PACS:  87.19.lj (Neuronal network dynamics)  
  87.19.ll (Models of single neurons and networks)  
  87.18.Vf (Systems biology)  
  05.10.-a (Computational methods in statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics)  

Project supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 21190040, 91430217, and 11305176).

Corresponding Authors:  Jin Wang     E-mail:

Cite this article: 

Han Yan(闫晗), Kun Zhang(张坤), Jin Wang(汪劲) Physical mechanism of mind changes and tradeoffs among speed, accuracy, and energy cost in brain decision making: Landscape, flux, and path perspectives 2016 Chin. Phys. B 25 078702

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