Researchers find basal forebrain controls decision-making speed in rodents

March 19, 2014

Neural activity in the basal forebrain (BF) leads to a faster and more precise response to reward-based stimuli in rats, report Irene Avila and Shih-Chieh Lin of the National Institute on Aging at NIH, in the March 18, 2014 issue of PLOS Biology.

Stimuli that predict important behavioral outcomes such as a reward or punishment are known as motivationally salient. Quick decision speed, especially in response to such motivational salient stimuli, is important for survival in animals. In humans, slowed decision speed is a key feature in depression, schizophrenia, and cognitive aging.

Rats were trained to respond to two sound associated with either large or small rewards. Researchers found that BF , located in the bottom front part of the brain at the base of the cerebral cortex, responded more strongly to the sound associated with the larger reward. Artificially stimulating the BF neurons shortly after this motivationally salient signal led to faster and more precise reaction times.

This study helps describe an important function of an otherwise poorly understood group of neurons. While more research is needed, these findings could have clinical implications for treating human conditions related to slow decision-making speeds.

Explore further: How vision captures sound now somewhat uncertain

More information: "Motivational Salience Signal in the Basal Forebrain Is Coupled with Faster and More Precise Decision Speed" by Avila, I and Lin, S-C. PLOS Biology. 12(3):e1001811. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001811. March 2014.

Related Stories

Research maze puts images on floor, where rodents look

February 26, 2014

A rodent in a maze is a staple—even a stereotype—of experimental psychology research. But the maze in the lab of Rebecca Burwell, professor of cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences at Brown University, is ...

Problem-solving governs how we process sensory stimuli

June 25, 2013

Various areas of the brain process our sensory experiences. How the areas of the cerebral cortex communicate with each other and process sensory information has long puzzled neu-roscientists. Exploring the sense of touch ...

Recommended for you

Knowing one's place in a social hierarchy

December 7, 2016

When you start a new job, it's normal to spend the first day working out who's who in the pecking order, information that will come in handy for making useful connections in the future. In an fMRI study published December ...

Deep brain stimulation may not boost memory

December 7, 2016

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of areas in the brain known to be involved in making memories does not improve memory performance, according to a study by Columbia University researchers published December 7 in Neuron. The study ...

Brain activity may predict risk of falls in older people

December 7, 2016

Measuring the brain activity of healthy, older adults while they walk and talk at the same time may help predict their risk of falls later, according to a study published in the December 7, 2016, online issue of Neurology.

When neurons are 'born' impacts olfactory behavior in mice

December 7, 2016

New research from North Carolina State University shows that neurons generated at different life stages in mice can impact aspects of their olfactory sense and behavior. The work could have implications for our understanding ...

Neuroimaging categorizes four depression subtypes

December 6, 2016

Patients with depression can be categorized into four unique subtypes defined by distinct patterns of abnormal connectivity in the brain, according to new research from Weill Cornell Medicine.

0 comments

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.