Good learners have active brains: study

Why do we all not learn from our experiences from past mistakes?

Written by PTI | London | Published: February 28, 2013 4:29:49 pm

Some people do not learn from their mistakes because their brain may be less active,according to a new research led by an Indian-origin scientist.

The research,led by Professor Joydeep Bhattacharya in the Department of Psychology at Goldsmiths,University of London,examined what it is about the brain that defines someone as a ‘good learner’ from those who do not learn from their mistakes.

“We are always told how important it is to learn from our errors,our experiences,but is this true? If so,then why do we all not learn from our experiences in the same way? It seems some people rarely do,even when they were informed of their errors in repeated attempts,” Bhattacharya said.

“This study presents a first tantalising insight into how our brain processes the performance feedback and what it does with this information,whether to learn from it or to brush it aside,” he said.

The study investigated brainwave patterns of 36 healthy human volunteers performing a simple time estimation task.

Researchers asked the participants to estimate a time interval of 1.7 seconds and provided feedback on their errors. The participants were then measured to see whether they incorporated the feedback to improve their future performances.

‘Good learners’,who were successful in incorporating the feedback information in adjusting their future performance,presented increased brain responses as fast as 200 milliseconds after the feedback on their performance was presented on a computer screen.

This brain response was weaker in the poor learners who did not learn the task well and who showed decreased responses to their performance errors.

The researchers further found that the good learners showed increased communication between brain areas involved with performance monitoring and sensorimotor processes.

“Good learners used the feedback not only to check their past performance,but also to adjust their next performance accordingly,” said Caroline Di Bernardi Luft,one of the research paper’s co-authors from the Federal University of Santa Catarina.

The brain responses correlated highly with how well the volunteers learned this simple task over the course of the experiment,and how good they were at maintaining the learned skill without any guiding feedback.

“Though these results are very encouraging in establishing a correlation between brains responses and learning performance,future studies are needed to identify a causal role of these effects,” Bhattacharya said.

The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

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