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.

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

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 ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Surprising similarity in fly and mouse motion vision

July 29, 2015

At first glance, the eyes of mammals and those of insects do not seem to have much in common. However, a comparison of the neural circuits for detecting motion shows surprising parallels between flies and mice. Scientists ...

Research grasps how the brain plans gripping motion

July 28, 2015

With the results of a new study, neuroscientists have a firmer grasp on the way the brain formulates commands for the hand to grip an object. The advance could lead to improvements in future brain-computer interfaces that ...

New research rethinks how we grab and hold onto objects

July 28, 2015

It's been a long day. You open your fridge and grab a nice, cold beer. A pretty simple task, right? Wrong. While you're debating between an IPA and a lager, your nervous system is calculating a complex problem: how hard to ...

It don't mean a thing if the brain ain't got that swing

July 27, 2015

Like Duke Ellington's 1931 jazz standard, the human brain improvises while its rhythm section keeps up a steady beat. But when it comes to taking on intellectually challenging tasks, groups of neurons tune in to one another ...

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.