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University of Maryland School of Medicine, NIH study pinpoints brain area's role in learning
Date:11/26/2012

n right, go left, make another right. Inferred values, however, are based on estimating goals and values on the fly using your knowledge of the entire structure of the environment. For example, instead of just habitually going home on your usual route, you have the full map in your mind of all the roads that you use. You can adjust your route, making different turns, depending on the time of day or the amount of traffic. These inferred decisions are adaptive much more flexible based on the situation."

The scientists used a rat model for their research, disabling the orbitofrontal cortex and measuring the difference in behavior that resulted. Further study using the same rat model work not reported in this paper has shown that cocaine use mimics this damage to the orbitofrontal cortex.

Further study of this neurobiological mechanism is needed, and the results have not been replicated in humans, but certainly the research is promising, says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "Our goal here at the School of Medicine is to make groundbreaking discoveries in the laboratory that can be translated into new treatments and new hope for patients and their families," says Dean Reece. "We are hopeful that research tells us more about the basic mechanisms in the brain will translate to new techniques in neurobiology and in treating devastating conditions such as drug addiction."


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Contact: Karen Robinson
karobinson@som.umaryland.edu
410-706-7590
University of Maryland Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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