Researchers identify brain's 'eureka' circuitry

January 23, 2008

Researchers have found the brain region that controls the decision to halt your midnight exploration of the refrigerator and commence enjoyment of that leftover chicken leg. What’s more, they said, such mechanisms governing exploration are among those that malfunction in addiction and mental illness.

Emmanuel Procyk and colleagues published their findings in the January 24, 2008, issue of the journal Neuron, published by Cell Press.

In their experiments, the researchers presented monkeys with a choice of touch targets on a computer screen, requiring the monkeys to spend time exploring which target would trigger a juice reward. Once the monkeys discovered the reward target, the researchers then gave the animals a period during which they could repeatedly touch the reward target to obtain more juice.

During the trials, the researchers recorded the electrical activity of hundreds of neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a brain region known to be active in adaptive behaviors such as the shift between exploring and exploiting.

In their analysis, the researchers measured the electrophysiological activity of cells during four different types of feedback—incorrect choices, first reward, repetition of the reward, and the ending of a trial by breaking fixation on the targets.

Analyzing the results, the researchers concluded that “Our data show that ACC discriminates between different types of feedback, allowing appropriate behavioral adaptations.”

They wrote that “Thus, the function we attribute to ACC activations is clearly not only to evaluate feedbacks but is also to participate in monitoring the different steps of the task at hand to optimize action adaptation and valuation. A dysfunction of these mechanisms represents the core feature of cognitive alterations observed in addiction and mental illness.”

Wrote Procyk and colleagues, “The ACC produces signals that discriminate between various behaviorally relevant positive and negative feedbacks, suggesting a role in triggering appropriate adaptations. Our data reinforce the proposal that ACC is important for establishing action valuations. But they also emphasize a combined role in monitoring events/actions for behavioral regulation when task control is high, underlining the intimate link between control and action valuation.”

Source: Cell Press

Explore further: Study reveals breakthrough in decoding brain function

Related Stories

Study reveals breakthrough in decoding brain function

September 25, 2017
If there's a final frontier in understanding the human body, it's definitely not the pinky. It's the brain.

Our brain's response to others' good news depends on empathy

October 7, 2015
The way our brain responds to others' good fortune is linked to how empathetic people report themselves to be, according to new UCL-led research.

'Should I stay or should I go?' Neuroscientists link brain cell types to behavior

May 26, 2013
Neuroscientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, led by Assistant Professor Adam Kepecs, have linked the activity of two types of brain nerve cells, neurons, to decisions made during particular type of behavior. The team ...

Area of the brain affected by autism detected

April 3, 2017
Brain researchers at ETH Zurich and other universities have shown for the first time that a region of the brain associated with empathy only activates very weakly in autistic people. This knowledge could help to develop new ...

Why being bilingual helps keep your brain fit

August 8, 2016
In a café in south London, two construction workers are engaged in cheerful banter, tossing words back and forth. Their cutlery dances during more emphatic gesticulations and they occasionally break off into loud guffaws. ...

Deciding to stay or go is a deep-seated brain function

June 6, 2011
Birds do it. Bees do it. Even little kids picking strawberries do it.

Recommended for you

Long-lasting blood vessel repair in animals via stem cells

October 23, 2017
Stem cell researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have made an advance toward having a long-lasting "repair caulk" for blood vessels. The research could form the basis of a treatment for peripheral artery disease, ...

Synthetic hydrogels deliver cells to repair intestinal injuries

October 23, 2017
By combining engineered polymeric materials known as hydrogels with complex intestinal tissue known as organoids - made from human pluripotent stem cells - researchers have taken an important step toward creating a new technology ...

Study reveals connection between microbiome and autoimmune disorders

October 23, 2017
Many people associate the word "bacteria" with something dirty and disgusting. Dr. Pere Santamaria disagrees. Called the microbiome, the bacteria in our bodies have all kinds of positive effects on our health, Santamaria ...

Engineered protein treatment found to reduce obesity in mice, rats and primates

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers with pharmaceutical company Amgen Inc. report that an engineered version of a protein naturally found in the body caused test mice, rats and cynomolgus monkeys to lose weight. In their ...

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

Cancer drug found to offer promising results in treating sepsis in test mice

October 19, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A combined team of researchers from China and the U.S. has found that a drug commonly used to treat lung cancer in humans offers a degree of protection against sepsis in test mice. In their paper published ...

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.