The hippocampus in the brain's temporal lobe is responsible for more than just long-term memory. Researchers have for the first time demonstrated that it is also involved in quick and successful conflict resolution. The team headed by Prof Dr Nikolai Axmacher from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), together with colleagues from the University Hospital of Bonn as well as in Aachen and Birmingham, reported in the journal "Current Biology".
Decision conflicts occur often in everyday life
In situations of conflict, people have to decide fast what to do. The hippocampus seems to be involved in this process.
RUB, photo: Marquard
In their everyday life, people are constantly confronted with decision conflicts, especially if they need to suppress an action that would have made sense under normal circumstances. For example: when the pedestrian lights go green, a pedestrian would normally start walking. If, however, a car comes speeding along at the same time, the pedestrian should stay where he is.
In their experiment, researchers opted for a less threatening situation. Test participants heard the words "high" or "low” spoken in a high or low tone, and they had to state – regardless of the meaning of the word – at what pitch the speaker said them. If the pitch doesn't correspond with the meaning of the word, a conflict is generated: the participants would answer more slowly and make more mistakes.
Results confirmed with two measurement methods
The team demonstrated with two different measurement methods that the hippocampus is active in such conflicting situations; this applies particularly when a person solves the conflicts quickly and successfully. Nikolai Axmacher from the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and his colleagues analysed the brain activity in healthy participants with functional magnetic resonance imaging.
They gained the same results in epilepsy patients who had EEG electrodes implanted in the hippocampus for the purpose of surgery planning; this is how the researchers could measure the activity in that brain region directly.
Memory system could learn from resolved conflicts
Because the hippocampus is essential for memory, the researchers speculate about its role in conflict resolution: "Our data show first of all a completely new function of the Hippocampus – processing of activity conflicts," says Carina Oehrn from the Department of Epileptology at the University Hospital of Bonn. "However, in order to answer the question how that function interacts with memory processes, we will have to carry out additional tests."
"Perhaps the memory system becomes particularly active if a conflict has been successfully resolved," speculates Nikolai Axmacher. "Permanently unsolved conflicts can't be used for learning helpful lessons for the future. According to our model, the brain works like a filter. It responds strongly to resolved conflicts, but not to unsolved conflicts or standard situations. However, we have to verify this hypothesis in additional studies."
C.R. Oehrn, C. Baumann, J. Fell, H. Lee, H. Kessler, U. Habel, S. Hanslmayr, N. Axmacher (2015): Human hippocampal dynamics during response conflict, Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.07.032
Prof Dr Nikolai Axmacher, Department of Neuropsychology, Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology at the Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, phone: +49/234/32-22674, email: email@example.com
Carina Oehrn, Department of Epileptology, University Hospital of Bonn, Sigmund-Freud-Straße 25, 53127 Bonn, Germany, Phone: +49/228 287-19345, Email: Carina.Oehrn@ukb.uni-bonn.de
Editor: Dr Julia Weiler
Jens Wylkop | Ruhr-Universität Bochum
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy