Sunday, July 6, 2014
Joshua Brown presents research at FENS Forum on Neuroscience in Milan
Speaking today at the 2014 FENS Forum on Neuroscience in Milan, PBS cognitive neuroscientist Joshua Brown discussed current research on how people predict and recognize the consequences of their future actions.
"The brain forms expectations about how things should work out, and then compares against what actually happens — or fails to happen," said Brown in the press release. "We're building on that notion of simply recognizing a mistake. We're examining how the brain then predicts outcomes of actions we haven't yet taken — and how those brain areas help us recognize and avoid future mistakes or risky situations.”
Developing a computer model combined with brain imaging, Brown's team demonstrated that error evaluation and prediction involves distinct regions of the brain within the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), and especially within the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). These regions collectively learn to predict consequences and detect surprising events, both good and bad.
Prior studies showed activity in the ACC as or just after people detect their mistake, leading some scientists to describe it as part of the brain's 'oops' center. But the computer model suggested and confirmed that the ACC also detects and tries to prevent possible future errors, as an 'early warning system' helping us bypass risky situations. "Simulating varying situations with these neural models helps us more accurately assess how specific brain areas may learn to predict outcomes of our actions, and perceive future risk," said Brown.