Rats process mistakes just like humans
Washington – A new study has found that human beings and rats may think alike when they’ve made a mistake and try to adjust their thinking.
The study tracked specific similarities in how human and rodent subjects adapted to errors as they performed a simple time estimation task.
When members of either species made a mistake in the trials, electrode recordings showed that they employed low-frequency brainwaves in the medial frontal cortex (MFC) of the brain to synchronize neurons in their motor cortex.
That action correlated with subsequent performance improvements on the task.
“These findings suggest that neuronal activity in the MFC encodes information that is involved in monitoring performance and could influence the control of response adjustments by the motor cortex,” the authors, who performed the research at Brown University and Yale University, wrote.
The importance of the findings extends beyond a basic understanding of cognition, because they suggest that rat models could be a useful analog for humans in studies of how such “adaptive control” neural mechanics are compromised in psychiatric diseases.
“With this rat model of adaptive control, we are now able to examine if novel drugs or other treatment procedures boost the integrity of this system,” James Cavanagh, a co-lead author of the paper who was at Brown when the research was done and has since become an Assistant Professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico, said.
“This may have clear translational potential for treating psychiatric diseases such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia,” he said.
The study is published online in Nature Neuroscience.