New insights into understanding brain performance

February 24, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- People who take Ritalin are far more aware of their mistakes, a University of Melbourne study has found.

The study, by Dr Rob Hester from the Department of and colleagues at the Queensland Brain Institute, investigated how the brain monitors ongoing behaviour for performance errors – specifically failures of impulse control. 

It found that a single dose of methylphenidate () results in significantly greater activity in the brain’s error monitoring network and improved volunteers’ awareness of their mistakes.

Diminished awareness of performance errors limits the extent to which humans correct their behaviour and has been linked to loss of insight in a number of clinical syndromes, including Alzheimer's Disease, Schizophrenia and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The findings demonstrate that activity within those parts of the brain that deal with human error, including the dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC) and inferior parietal lobule (IPL) differs depending on whether participants are aware of their performance errors.  Critically, researchers showed that a single, clinically relevant dose of methylphenidate, which works by increasing the levels of catecholamines in the brain, dramatically improved error awareness in healthy adults.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show that methylphenidate was able to promote the conscious awareness of performance errors by strengthening activation differences within the dACC and IPL for errors made with and without awareness, compared to placebo and other comparison drugs.

While the study provided only a single dose of methylphenidate to healthy participants, and needed to be replicated in people using standard clinical doses, the data highlights the potential of pharmacotherapy in addressing problems of awareness and insight that features in a range of neurologic and psychiatric conditions.

 Dr Hester said failure to recognise errors was related to poor insight into a person’s clinical condition, which can impair treatment. 

“For example, in conditions such as Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease, poor error awareness has been associated with delusions, paranoia and has been the cause of considerable distress to patients,” he said. 

“Failing to recognise your own error at the time can account for the difference between your recollection and the reality that confronts you. Understanding the mechanisms that underlie how we become conscious of our mistakes is an important first step in improving error , and potentially reducing these symptoms.” 

Explore further: The brain's reaction to errors is studied

Related Stories

The brain's reaction to errors is studied

April 12, 2006

From accidentally deleting a computer file to dropping something, we all make mistakes -- and now Michigan scientists are learning how that affects the brain.

Attention deficit medication helps drug addicts: study

July 26, 2010

The active ingredient in Ritalin, a medication used to control the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, could help boost self-control in cocaine addicts, a study published Monday showed.

Fingers detect typos even when conscious brain doesn't

October 28, 2010

Expert typists are able to zoom across the keyboard without ever thinking about which fingers are pressing the keys. New research from Vanderbilt University reveals that this skill is managed by an autopilot, one that is ...

Recommended for you

Psychosis associated with low levels of physical activity

August 25, 2016

A large international study of more than 200,000 people in nearly 50 countries has revealed that people with psychosis engage in low levels of physical activity, and men with psychosis are over two times more likely to miss ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Tausch
not rated yet Mar 04, 2012
Did you recognize the errors in your research?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.