Neural states affect learning

May 7, 2014

Theta-band activity in hippocampus after an event seems to be crucial for learning. A study at the University of Jyväskylä also proved that the absence of theta facilitated learning a simple task while training during theta had no effect on learning.

Hippocampus is a brain structure that has a critical role in mammalian . The identification of different hippocampal states is based on the oscillatory properties of electrophysiological activity. Traditionally, rhythmic slow activity, theta, has been linked to attention, whereas transient bursts of synchronised neuronal firing, ripples, have been connected to the consolidation of recent experiences.

Post-doctoral fellow Miriam Nokia and senior researcher Jan Wikgren from the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, studied the effect of presenting learning task stimuli during theta activity and without it. Training in the absence of theta facilitated learning a simple -dependent task, whereas in the presence of theta had no effect on learning at all. This is seemingly paradoxical, as theta is usually linked with attention and associated to better learning. However, the results also indicated that learning was faster when the hippocampal theta-band responses to the learning stimuli were uniform. Thus, theta-band immediately after an event seems to be crucial for learning.

In addition, Nokia and Wikgren tested the idea that an internal neural state could affect memory retrieval in the same way as the external environment. In a classic experiment, a previously learned item was better remembered when memory was tested in the training environment. Nokia and Wikgren found that, in addition to an external environment, a given neural state also can act as a context for learning.

Ultimately, the results of the current study could be utilised, for instance, in the development of brain-computer interfaces designed to optimise learning.

The study was published on 23 April 2014 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Explore further: Brain's motor cortex uses multiple frequency bands to coordinate movement

Related Stories

Brain's motor cortex uses multiple frequency bands to coordinate movement

February 21, 2014
Synchrony is critical for the proper functioning of the brain. Synchronous firing of neurons within regions of the brain and synchrony between brain waves in different regions facilitate information processing, yet researchers ...

Why your nose can be a pathfinder

April 16, 2014
Waves in your brain make smells stick to your memories and inner maps.

Learning requires rhythmical activity of neurons

September 26, 2012
The hippocampus represents an important brain structure for learning. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich discovered how it filters electrical neuronal signals through an input and output control, ...

Brain state affects memory recall

June 13, 2011
Lost your keys? Your brain might be in a better state to recall where you put them at some times than at others, according to new research from UC Davis. A paper describing the work is published June 13 in the journal Proceedings ...

Eye movements reveal rhythm of memory formation

July 31, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Quick eye movements, called saccades, that enable us to scan a visual scene appear to act as a metronome for pushing information about that scene into memory.

Fluctuations in size of brain waves contribute to information processing

February 8, 2013
Cyclical variations in the size of brain wave rhythms may participate in the encoding of information by the brain, according to a new study led by Colin Molter of the Neuroinformatics Japan Center, RIKEN Brain Science Institute.

Recommended for you

The neural codes for body movements

July 21, 2017
A small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to researchers in the laboratory of Caltech's Richard Andersen, James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience, Tianqiao and Chrissy ...

Faulty support cells disrupt communication in brains of people with schizophrenia

July 20, 2017
New research has identified the culprit behind the wiring problems in the brains of people with schizophrenia. When researchers transplanted human brain cells generated from individuals diagnosed with childhood-onset schizophrenia ...

Scientists reveal how patterns of brain activity direct specific body movements

July 20, 2017
New research by Columbia scientists offers fresh insight into how the brain tells the body to move, from simple behaviors like walking, to trained movements that may take years to master. The discovery in mice advances knowledge ...

Scientists discover combined sensory map for heat, humidity in fly brain

July 20, 2017
Northwestern University neuroscientists now can visualize how fruit flies sense and process humidity and temperature together through a "sensory map" within their brains, according to new research.

Team traces masculinization in mice to estrogen receptor in inhibitory neurons

July 20, 2017
Researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have opened a black box in the brain whose contents explain one of the remarkable yet mysterious facts of life.

Speech language therapy delivered through the Internet leads to similar improvements as in-person treatment

July 20, 2017
Telerehabilitation helps healthcare professionals reach more patients in need, but some worry it doesn't offer the same quality of care as in-person treatment. This isn't the case, according to recent research by Baycrest.

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.