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Brain research shows past experience is invaluable for complex decision making
Date:5/13/2009

discriminate between highly similar visual patterns and to assign them in different categories.

Volunteers used two different rules to assign visual patterns into categories. As a result, patterns belonging to the same category based on one of the rules could be members of different categories based on the alternate rule. "This flexible learning paradigm allowed us to test for brain changes related to the perceived rather than the physical similarity between visual patterns," explains Dr. Kourtzi. "Our use of brain imaging in combination with mathematical techniques enabled us to extract sensitive information about brain signals that reflected the participant's choice."

"What we've shown is that we don't just get better at the task of picking out a familiar face amongst a crowd, for example. Our results tell us that previous experience can train circuits in our brains to recognise perceived categories rather than simply the physical similarity between visual patterns," said Dr Kourtzi. "Based on what we found, we propose that learned information about categories is actually retained in brain circuits in the posterior areas of the brain. From there we think it is fed through to circuits in frontal areas that translate this information into flexible decisions and appropriate actions depending on the requirements and context of the task."

Dr Janet Allen, Director of Research, BBSRC said: "We have to be able to understand how healthy brains work before we can see what has gone wrong when a person's brain is affected by disease. This work also shows that the complex human brain has evolved an incredibly effective mechanism for making good decisions that lead to successful everyday actions something that has surely been a significant evolutionary advantage."


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Contact: Tracey Jewitt
tracey.jewitt@bbsrc.ac.uk
44-179-341-4694
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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