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Seeing through conflict: when and when not to integrate cues

Perception relies on integrating information within and between the senses. But how dointegrate cueses the brain decide which pieces of information should be integrated, and which kept separate? We demonstrate how proscription can be used to solve this problem: certain neurons respond best to unrealistic combinations of features to provide ‘what not’ information that drives suppression of unlikely perceptual interpretations of the scene. First, we present a model that captures both improved perception when signals are consistent (and thus should be integrated) and robust estimation when signals are conflicting. Second, we test for signatures of proscription in the human brain. We show that concentrations of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in a brain region intricately involved in integrating cues (V3B/KO) correlate with robust integration. Finally, we show that perturbing excitation/inhibition impairs integration. These results highlight the role of proscription in robust perception and demonstrate the functional purpose of seemingly puzzling ‘what not’ sensors in supporting sensory estimation.