Humans and rats think alike after making mistakes

Researchers found that brains of humans and rats adapt in a similar way to errors.

Written by PTI | Washington | Published: October 21, 2013 12:44:29 pm

Humans and rats think alike when they have made a mistake and are learning from the experience,scientists,including one of Indian-origin,have found.

Researchers found that brains of humans and rats adapt in

a similar way to errors by using low-frequency brainwaves in

the medial frontal cortex to synchronise neurons in the motor


The study tracked specific similarities in how human and rodent subjects adapted to errors as they performed a simple time estimation task.

When members of either species made a mistake in the trials,electrode recordings showed that they employed low-frequency brainwaves in the medial frontal cortex (MFC) of the brain to synchronise neurons in their motor cortex.

That action correlated with subsequent performance improvements on the task.

“These findings suggest that neuronal activity in the MFC encodes information that is involved in monitoring performance and could influence the control of response adjustments by the motor cortex,” said researchers at Brown University and Yale University.

The findings suggest that rat models could be a useful analog for humans in studies of how such “adaptive control” neural mechanics are compromised in psychiatric diseases.

“With this rat model of adaptive control,we are now able to examine whether novel drugs or other treatment procedures boost the integrity of this system,” said James Cavanagh,co-lead author of the paper who was at Brown when the research was done and has since become assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico.

“This may have clear translational potential for treating psychiatric diseases such as obsessive compulsive disorder,depression,attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia,” Cavanagh said.

In addition to Cavanagh,the lead author is Nandakumar Narayanan,formerly of Yale and now of the University of Iowa,and the senior authors are Michael Frank of Brown and Mark Laubach of Yale.

The study was published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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