Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Oops! Researchers publish new findings on the brain’s response to costly mistakes

12.04.2006


It happens to all of us, no matter how hard we try. Whether it’s deleting a computer file and realizing a split-second later that we can’t get it back, or dropping a bag of groceries, or realizing that our gas tank is nearly empty on a lonely stretch of highway, we all make mistakes that aren’t just annoying, but potentially costly.



Now, a team of University of Michigan researchers has looked inside the human brain and captured the instant when someone makes a costly mistake. What they’ve found is interesting by itself, but may also help scientists understand mental health problems such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD.

In general, the U-M scientists found that a particular part of the brain called the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, or rACC, becomes much more active when a person realizes he or she has made an error that carries consequences – for instance, losing money.


By contrast, the same area of the brain doesn’t show the same level of activity when the mistake doesn’t carry a penalty, or even when a correct action carries a reward. The rACC is thought to be involved with emotional responses, and scientists had suspected it might also be involved in response to costly errors. But this is the first brain-imaging study to test that idea.

Interestingly, the U-M team had previously shown that the rACC area became much more active in response to a no-penalty error in the brains of a small group of OCD patients, compared to people without the condition. OCD is often characterized by an untoward anxiety or fear about errors or failures in certain aspects of everyday life, with repetitive patterns of behavior to ward off or prevent such events.

The new research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, involved 12 healthy adults who had their brains scanned using a powerful functional MRI (fMRI) imaging machine, while they were asked to respond to a series of 360 visual-based tests.

Some of the tests carried a monetary reward between 25 cents and $2, while others carried penalties of the same size. Still others carried no reward or penalty. The participants were told they had a $10 "credit" to begin, and that they would receive real cash depending on their balance at the end.

The participants had to correctly, and within a deadline of a few hundred milliseconds, press a button corresponding to one of two alphabetic letter pairs. They were instructed to determine which letter was the odd one out in a series of other letters. Some of the letter sequences were more confusing than others. They received immediate feedback telling them if they were wrong or too late in responding.

"In general, the response to a mistake that cost them money was greater than the response to other mistakes, and the involvement of the rACC suggests the importance of emotions in decision and performance-monitoring processes," says Stephan Taylor, M.D., an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the U-M Medical School and lead author of the new paper. "It’s very interesting to us that the same part of the brain that responded in our OCD study on regular, no-cost errors also responded in healthy individuals when we made the error count more."

The new research confirms previous U-M studies using a different brain-activity monitoring technique and led by senior author William Gehring, Ph.D., Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Psychology in the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and director of the U-M Human Brain Electrophysiology Laboratory.

For more than a decade, Gehring has used a measuring tool known as the event-related potential or ERP to study brain responses to various situations, assessing changes in electrical activity through sensors arranged on a mesh cap that is placed on the head. The method is similar to techniques used to study the brains of people with epilepsy or sleep problems, but the electrical signal from the brain is processed in a different way. In prior studies, Gehring and his colleagues observed a distinct brain electrical response to errors, dubbing it ERN for "error-related negativity."

Using ERP, Gehring and his colleagues localized the brain’s response to errors to the vicinity of the rACC, a larger region of the brain known as the medial frontal cortex. Working with Joe Himle, Ph.D., and Laura Nisenson, Ph.D., from the U-M Anxiety Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry, he performed a study in OCD patients that showed heightened response to errors in the same area.

Now, the fMRI technique has allowed the researchers to localize this response even more precisely. The fMRI scanner uses magnetic fields to create images based on blood flow, and can detect tiny changes in the rate of blood flow in and out of various areas of the brain. The more blood flowing to a specific area, the more active the cells in that area are – and therefore, the more processing that is going on in those brain cells.

"We hypothesized that the brain response to errors was involved in an emotional reaction to making an error," says Gehring. "Our new fMRI result not only confirms this, but it also allows us to pinpoint the area in the brain that shows the exaggerated error response."

Taylor, who treats patients with psychiatric disorders, says the next step is to study patients using the same test as was used in healthy participants. The researchers also hope to study the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of "talk therapy", on OCD patients’ response to errors. They are currently recruiting participants for that study.

"It appears to us so far that OCD patients may have a hyperactive response to making errors, with increased worry and concern about having done something wrong," he says. "We hope that this kind of research will help us get a handle on this condition and see which normal brain circuits have gone awry in people with OCD." The new finding does not have immediate implications for the treatment of OCD, Taylor cautions, but further research could help lead to more tailored treatment designed for each patient. The research team hopes to study people with depression as well.

Kara Gavin | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umich.edu
http://www.med.umich.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New malaria analysis method reveals disease severity in minutes
14.08.2017 | University of British Columbia

nachricht New type of blood cells work as indicators of autoimmunity
14.08.2017 | Instituto de Medicina Molecular

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

Im Focus: Scientists improve forecast of increasing hazard on Ecuadorian volcano

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New thruster design increases efficiency for future spaceflight

16.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Transporting spin: A graphene and boron nitride heterostructure creates large spin signals

16.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues

16.08.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>