Researchers gain new insight into prefrontal cortex activity
The brain has a remarkable ability to learn new cognitive tasks while maintaining previously acquired knowledge about various functions necessary for everyday life. But exactly how new information is incorporated into brain systems that control cognitive functions has remained a mystery.
A study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the McGovern Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology shows how new information is encoded in neurons of the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain involved in planning, decision making, working memory and learning.
"In this study we were able to isolate activity directly from the brain, allowing us to 'see' what was happening in the prefrontal cortex before and after a new task was learned," said Christos Constantinidis, Ph.D., associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of the study, published in the March 5 online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To gain insight into how learning a new task affects the prefrontal cortex, the researchers analyzed the electrical activity of neurons before and after training for the performance in two short-term memory tests. Two monkeys initially looked at a computer screen while various shapes, such as squares and circles, were displayed, and researchers recorded the electrical activity occurring in the brain. The same animals were then trained to recognize the various shapes, and to remember whether two symbols matched each other.
Using computational analysis of the neuronal recordings, the researchers compared data to assess what information was present before training and what new information arose while learning a new task. They found that learning was associated with activation of a small number of neurons that were highly specialized for the new task, while the same neurons maintained the existing information that was present before training.
"In essence, this select group of neurons was able to multitask by learning new information while retaining information they were already specialized for," Constantinidis said. "Our results show that although there was little change in the amount of basic stimulus information that neurons encoded before training, more complex information about whether the symbols matched became incorporated throughout the prefrontal cortex after training."
Overall these findings shed light on how new information is incorporated into the prefrontal cortex activity and how neural activity codes information, which should lead to richer theories of how the prefrontal cortex controls behavior and how information is encoded in neural activity more generally.
"We hope that our findings will help others who work with patients who have short-term memory problems resulting from strokes or traumatic brain injuries," Constantinidis said. "Computerized training to perform cognitive tasks, like those used in our study, has shown promise in cognitive rehabilitation, and for treatment of mental illnesses and conditions, such as schizophrenia and ADHD."
Provided by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
- Multitasking is no problem for these brain cells: Individual brain cells can ID both cars and cats Jun 09, 2010 | not rated yet | 0
- Neural balls and strikes: Where categories live in the brain Jan 15, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Study provides potential explanation for mechanisms of associative memory Dec 13, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Shedding light on memory deficits in schizophrenic patients and healthy aged subjects Feb 23, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Researchers show how memory is lost -- and found Jul 27, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or ...
Neuroscience May 18, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
The neural machinery underlying our olfactory sense continues to be an enigma for neuroscience. A recent review in Neuron seeks to expand traditional ideas about how neurons in the olfactory bulb might encode information about ...
Neuroscience May 17, 2013 | 4 / 5 (1) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—What if the quality of your work depends more on your focus on the piano keys or canvas or laptop than your musical or painting or computing skills? If target users can be convinced, they ...
Neuroscience May 17, 2013 | 3.7 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Neurological disorders can have a devastating impact on the lives of sufferers and their families.
Neuroscience May 17, 2013 | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
If you're a left-brain thinker, chances are you use your right hand to hold your cell phone up to your right ear, according to a newly published study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Neuroscience May 16, 2013 | 2 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have identified a potential new risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea: asthma. Using data from the National Institutes of Health (Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)-funded Wisconsin ...
10 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Scientists at Johns Hopkins have turned their view of osteoarthritis (OA) inside out. Literally. Instead of seeing the painful degenerative disease as a problem primarily of the cartilage that cushions joints, ...
11 hours ago | 4.8 / 5 (4) | 0 |
In their quest to learn more about the variability of cells between and within tissues, biomedical scientists have devised tools capable of simultaneously measuring dozens of characteristics of individual ...
11 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
A new study looking at sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and markers for Alzheimer's disease (AD) risk in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and neuroimaging adds to the growing body of research linking the two.
10 hours ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
The hunt for an HIV vaccine has gobbled up $8 billion in the past decade, and the failure of the most recent efficacy trial has delivered yet another setback to 26 years of efforts.
15 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Gourmands and foodies everywhere have long recognized ginger as a great way to add a little peppery zing to both sweet and savory dishes; now, a study from researchers at Columbia University shows purified components of the ...
10 hours ago | not rated yet | 0