Navigation Links
Making temporary changes to brain could speed up learning, study reports
Date:4/13/2011

In a breakthrough that may aid treatment of learning impairments, strokes, tinnitus and chronic pain, UT Dallas researchers have found that brain nerve stimulation accelerates learning in laboratory tests.

Another major finding of the study, published in the April 14 issue of Neuron, involves the positive changes detected after stimulation and learning were complete. Researchers monitoring brain activity in rats found that brain responses eventually returned to their pre-stimulation state, but the animals could still perform the learned task. These findings have allowed researchers to better understand how the brain learns and encodes new skills.

Previous studies showed that people and animals that practice a task experience major changes in their brains. Learning to read Braille with a single finger leads to increased brain responses to the trained digit. Learning to discriminate among a set of tones leads to increased brain responses to the trained tones.

But it was not clear whether these changes are just coincidence or whether they truly help with learning. The current research demonstrates that changes in the brain are meaningful and not merely coincidental, said Dr. Amanda Reed, who wrote the article with colleagues from The University of Texas at Dallas' School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

Reed and her fellow researchers used brain stimulation to release neurotransmitters that caused the brain to increase its response to a small set of tones. The team found that this increase allowed rats to learn to perform a task using these tones more quickly than animals that had not received stimulation. This finding provides the first direct evidence that a larger brain response can aid learning.

Future treatments that enhance large changes in the brain may also assist with recovery from stroke or learning disabilities. In addition, some brain disorders such as tinnitus or chronic pain occur when large-scale brain changes are unable to reverse. So this new understanding of how the brain learns may lead to better treatments for these conditions.

Researchers examined the laboratory animals' brains again after the rats had practiced their learned task for a few weeks. The brains appeared to have returned to normal, even though the animals had not forgotten how to perform the task they had learned. This means that, although large changes in the brain were helpful for initial learning, those changes did not have to be permanent, Reed wrote.

"We think that this process of expanding the brain responses during learning and then contracting them back down after learning is complete may help animals and people to be able to perform many different tasks with a high level of skill," Reed said. "So for example, this may explain why people can learn a new skill like painting or playing the piano without sacrificing their ability to tie their shoes or type on a computer."

The study by Reed and colleagues supports a theory that large-scale brain changes are not directly responsible for learning, but accelerate learning by creating an expanded pool of neurons from which the brain can select the most efficient, small "network" to accomplish the new skill.

This new view of the brain can be compared to an economy or an ecosystem, rather than a computer, Reed said. Computer networks are designed by engineers and operate using a finite set of rules and solutions to solve problems. The brain, like other natural systems, works by trial and error.

The first step of learning is to create a large set of diverse neurons that are activated by doing the new skill. The second step is to identify a small subset of neurons that can accomplish the necessary computation and return the rest of the neurons to their previous state, so they can be used to learn the next new skill.

By the end of a long period of training, skilled performance is accomplished by small numbers of specialized neurons not by large-scale reorganization of the brain. This research helps explain how brains can learn new skills without interfering with earlier learning. The researchers used anesthesia when inserting electrodes into the laboratory rats' brains. The brain stimulation was painless for the rats, Reed said. Co-authors of the study were Drs. Jonathan Riley, Ryan Carraway, Andres Carrasco, Claudia Perez, Vikram Jakkamsetti and Michael Kilgard of UT Dallas.


'/>"/>

Contact: Emily Martinez
emily.martinez@utdallas.edu
972-883-4335
University of Texas at Dallas
Source:Eurekalert

Related medicine news :

1. Vestara and EXP Pharmaceutical Services Corp. Announce Partnership Making Available Industry's Only Automated Pharmaceutical Waste Management Solution to over 5,000 U.S. Hospitals
2. Home Health Care Newest Market Sector for Marketing/PR firm, Placemaking Group, With Addition of Client, Nursing and Rehab At Home
3. Bitrex Bitter Safety Additive Exhibiting at the Safe Kids Fair 2010; Making a Bitter Face to Learn about Poisoning Prevention
4. Hopkins doctor/disaster expert says resource problems in Haiti required ethical decision-making
5. Carnegie Mellon research provides insight into brains decision-making process
6. 3-D cell culture: Making cells feel right at home
7. Irelands Allergy Standards Limited Adds LG Electronics to Host of Companies Making Allergy-Certified Consumer Products
8. Governor Tim Pawlenty Issues Proclamation Making Thursday, March 25, 2010 Medical Biller's Day
9. More than one-quarter of elderly patients lack decision-making capacity at death
10. Zerion Software Releases iPad Data Collection App, Making the iPad a Serious Business Tool
11. Love Making And Exercise Can Trigger Headache Pain?
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/26/2017)... ... April 26, 2017 , ... RawTrition now brings you BioEnergy which is ... from SUPERFOODS! , RawTrition is taking nutrients to the next level! ... body recognizes its raw form (unlike the synthetically made options that are on the ...
(Date:4/25/2017)... , ... April 25, 2017 , ... ... breakthrough topical cream that’s the first in a new class of photodynamic cosmetics ... overall appearance of skin, visibly reduce outward signs of aging, and minimize the ...
(Date:4/25/2017)... ... 2017 , ... As President Trump challenges the status quo ... administration could impact the employee benefits industry. James Slotnick, AVP, Government Relations, for ... make it through Congress. His discussion will focus on the current state of ...
(Date:4/25/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... April 25, 2017 , ... ... targets, they rely on contracted partners to help with process innovation in drug ... combined drug formulation experience along with state-of-the-art analytical equipment in support of their ...
(Date:4/25/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... April 25, 2017 , ... ... addition of predictive analytics to its patient care management module. Using this new ... before a patient has been initiated on continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), oral, ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:4/18/2017)... , April 18, 2017  Cardinal Health (NYSE: ... fiscal 2017 earnings per share (EPS) guidance and ... This is in conjunction with this morning,s announcement of ... Thrombosis and Nutritional Insufficiency businesses. Cardinal Health ... operations will be at the bottom of its previous ...
(Date:4/18/2017)... DALLAS , April 18, 2017 Viverae ... proud to announce the integration of IBM ® ... platform to deliver targeted communications for a personalized experience. ... meaningful actions on their health in real time. The ... that matter most to members, wherever they are in ...
(Date:4/18/2017)... DIEGO , April 18, 2017  Astute Medical, ... a case series to be presented at the 2017 ... which begins today and continues through April 22. Physicians ... IGFBP-7 , used to assess risk for acute kidney ... decompensated heart failure (ADHF). Elevated levels ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: