Brain anticipates events to learn routines

A new study at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston helps explain why practice makes perfect. Baylor researchers found that neurons in the visual cortex, the part of the brain responsible for vision, were more active when study monkeys anticipated the occurrence of predictable events. The results of the study were published in the Oct. 10 issue of Nature. “We really don’t have a great understanding of what changes in the brain when we practice things,” said Dr. Geoffrey M. Ghose, first author of the paper and an assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor. “These results show that as we practice and anticipate which events are going to happen, the brain is also preparing itself.”

Dr. John H. R. Maunsell, a professor of neuroscience at Baylor and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is the study’s lead author.

Researchers at Baylor trained two macaque monkeys to pay attention to changes at a specific location of a display screen. They were rewarded with juice if they pulled a lever when the change occurred. The activity of neurons in the visual cortex was measured during the experiment.

“Activity in the neurons went up when the event was likely to happen, and went down when it was unlikely to happen,” Ghose said. Based on what they see, primates develop expectations of what might happen next. For example, a baseball player anticipates that the pitcher will throw the ball towards him after he winds up, because he has seen him perform this task countless times before. People in every day life also use this function of their brain each time they do something routine, like driving a car or crossing the street.

“Our study gives us some clues of how we make use of our experiences to change specific signals in the brain,” Ghose said. “The results are a window into how we represent time. They tell us how accurately we know when things are going to happen and how well we can prepare ourselves.”

Media Contact

Anissa Anderson Orr EurekAlert!

More Information:

http://research.bcm.tmc.edu/

All latest news from the category: Studies and Analyses

innovations-report maintains a wealth of in-depth studies and analyses from a variety of subject areas including business and finance, medicine and pharmacology, ecology and the environment, energy, communications and media, transportation, work, family and leisure.

Back to home

Comments (0)

Write a comment

Newest articles

Enhancing the workhorse

Artificial intelligence, hardware innovations boost confocal microscope’s performance. Since artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky patented the principle of confocal microscopy in 1957, it has become the workhorse standard in life…

In the quantum realm, not even time flows as you might expect

New study shows the boundary between time moving forward and backward may blur in quantum mechanics. A team of physicists at the Universities of Bristol, Vienna, the Balearic Islands and…

Hubble Spots a Swift Stellar Jet in Running Man Nebula

A jet from a newly formed star flares into the shining depths of reflection nebula NGC 1977 in this Hubble image. The jet (the orange object at the bottom center…

Partners & Sponsors