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DBS studies show how brain buys time for tough choices
Date:9/25/2011

[decision] conflict," he said. "It is responsive to the circumstances that the signals on top of the scalp are responsive to, and in highly similar frequency bands and time ranges."

A mathematical model for analyzing the measurements of accuracy and response time confirmed that the elevated neural activity and the extra time people took to decide was indeed evidence of effortful deliberation.

"It was not that they were waiting without doing anything," said graduate student Thomas Wiecki, the paper's second author. "They were slower because they were taking the time to make a more informed decision. They were processing it more thoroughly."

The results have led the researchers to think that perhaps the different brain regions communicate by virtue of these low-frequency signals. Maybe the impulsivity side effect of DBS could be mitigated if those bands could remain unhindered by the stimulator's signal. Alternatively, Wiecki said, a more sophisticated DBS system could sense that decision conflict is underway in the mPFC and either temporarily suspend its operation until the decision is made, or stimulate the STN in a more dynamic way to better mimic intact STN function.

These are not trivial ideas to foist upon DBS engineers, but by understanding the mechanics underlying the side effect and in healthy unhindered decision making the researchers say they now have a target to consider.


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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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