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Oops! Researchers publish new findings on the brain's response to costly mistakes

rocessed in a different way. In prior studies, Gehring and his colleagues observed a distinct brain electrical response to errors, dubbing it ERN for "error-related negativity."

Using ERP, Gehring and his colleagues localized the brain's response to errors to the vicinity of the rACC, a larger region of the brain known as the medial frontal cortex. Working with Joe Himle, Ph.D., and Laura Nisenson, Ph.D., from the U-M Anxiety Disorders Program in the Department of Psychiatry, he performed a study in OCD patients that showed heightened response to errors in the same area.

Now, the fMRI technique has allowed the researchers to localize this response even more precisely. The fMRI scanner uses magnetic fields to create images based on blood flow, and can detect tiny changes in the rate of blood flow in and out of various areas of the brain. The more blood flowing to a specific area, the more active the cells in that area are ?and therefore, the more processing that is going on in those brain cells.

"We hypothesized that the brain response to errors was involved in an emotional reaction to making an error," says Gehring. "Our new fMRI result not only confirms this, but it also allows us to pinpoint the area in the brain that shows the exaggerated error response."

Taylor, who treats patients with psychiatric disorders, says the next step is to study patients using the same test as was used in healthy participants. The researchers also hope to study the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of "talk therapy", on OCD patients' response to errors. They are currently recruiting participants for that study.

"It appears to us so far that OCD patients may have a hyperactive response to making errors, with increased worry and concern about having done something wrong," he says. "We hope that this kind of research will help us get a handle on this condition and see which normal brain circuits have gone awry in people with OCD." The
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Source:University of Michigan Health System


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