Research Reveals How The Brain Says “Oops!”

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Brain News

Researchers from Cedars-Sinai’s Center for Neural Science and Medicine and the Department of Neurosurgery uncovered the neural signals and pathways associated with performance monitoring, specifically at the moment our brain says oops at errors. The study is published in the journal Science.

Understanding Performance Monitoring

Performance monitoring is a brain signal, a kind of self-generated feedback, that lets a person know he/she is making an error during task performance.

Performance monitoring is of two types, namely, ‘domain general’ and ‘domain specific’. The first type helps us detect errors in any type of task and learn new tasks like driving or swimming. The second type helps us perfect individual skills by detecting specific kinds of mistakes in a task, like realizing that we have chosen the wrong letter in a puzzle.

The Study

The researchers monitored the activity of more than 1000 neurons in the medial frontal cortex of patients with epilepsy while they performed two complex cognitive tests. These include the Stroop task and the Multi-Source Interference Task (MSIT).

The Findings

The results revealed the cognitive flexibility of the brain and how it resolves the fundamental trade-off between task generalization and specialization. It was also found that the brain uses the same group of “error” and “conflict” neurons in the medial frontal cortex for performance feedback in various scenarios for different cognitive functioning.

Towards Interventions

The researchers are enthusiastic that the study can help formulate interventions to correct disorders associated with too much or too little performance monitoring like schizophrenia or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

One of the lead researchers, Ueli Rutishauser, remarked, “We believe the mechanistic knowledge we have gained will be critical to perfecting treatments for these devastating psychiatric disorders.”

To Know More Please Refer To

Fu, Z., Beam, D., Chung, J. M., Reed, C. M., Mamelak, A. N., Adolphs, R., & Rutishauser, U. (2022). The geometry of domain-general performance monitoring in the human medial frontal cortex. Science (New York, N.Y.), 376(6593), eabm9922.

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