Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reading the fine print of perception: Human brain learns by interpreting details, study shows

Date:
May 19, 2011
Source:
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Summary:
Wine connoisseurs recognize the vintage at the first sip, artists see subtle color variations and the blind distinguish the finest surface structures. Why are they considered superior to non-specialists in their field?

Region in the prefrontal cortex important for perceptual learning.
Credit: Image courtesy of Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Wine connoisseurs recognize the vintage at the first sip, artists see subtle color variations and the blind distinguish the finest surface structures. Why are they considered superior to non-specialists in their field?

Researchers at Charité -- Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Bernstein Center Berlin, the Excellence Center NeuroCure and the Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg, have determined which areas of the brain are particularly active when perceptual skills are trained. In the current issue of the journal Neuron, they show how one becomes an expert: not by the increasing the resolution with which our brain encodes our environment. Instead we learn by improving our ability to distinguish subtle details better.

The researchers from the research group of Prof. John-Dylan Haynes, Director of the Berlin Center for Advanced Neuroimaging at the Charité, have examined, together with colleagues from Magdeburg, how brain activity changes across the course of a learning process. For this, they measured changes in nerve cell activity in the brain with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while participants learned to tell differences between visual images. Their reasoning was: if the learning effect is primarily based on an increasingly detailed representation of the stimuli, then the visual center should be involved in learning. However, if progress is due to an improved interpretation of the stimuli in the brain, then learning should involve brain areas for decision making.

"The fMRI measurements clearly showed that the activity in the visual center remained the same during the entire learning process," said Prof. Haynes. "However, a region in the prefrontal cortex, which plays an important role in the interpretation of stimuli, was becoming more and more involved." Hence, the researchers concluded that the learning process takes place at the level of decision making. "If our perception sharpens in learning, then this is not so much due to the fact that more information reaches the brain, "concluded Professor Haynes. "Instead we learn more and more to correctly interpret the given information. We see details in pictures that we were not aware of at the beginning."

The researchers investigated the learning processes using simple geometric images. In the experiment, the twenty subjects looked at a small stripe pattern on a screen for a short time. They should decide in which direction the stripes pointed. Over time they could recognize details better and better. „Now it would be possible to use our approach to investigate whether similar effects also holds true say for wine connoisseurs or top chefs," said Prof. Haynes.

Thorsten Kahn, PhD student at the Bernstein Center for Computational Science developed a mathematical model for this study that predicts the learning processes in the brain very precisely. "Such models are very important to systematically analyse the data," said the young researcher. "The collaboration between modeling and data collection works particularly well in the Bernstein Center where psychologists, physicians, physicists and mathematicians work together."

FMRI is a method that allows to brain activity non-invasively using strong magnetic fields. Over the last few years the research group of Prof. Haynes has been involved in developing approaches that improve the readout of information from such brain signals.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Thorsten Kahnt, Marcus Grueschow, Oliver Speck, John-Dylan Haynes. Perceptual Learning and Decision-Making in Human Medial Frontal Cortex. Neuron, 2011; 70 (3): 549-559 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.02.054

Cite This Page:

Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. "Reading the fine print of perception: Human brain learns by interpreting details, study shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110518121030.htm>.
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. (2011, May 19). Reading the fine print of perception: Human brain learns by interpreting details, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110518121030.htm
Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. "Reading the fine print of perception: Human brain learns by interpreting details, study shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110518121030.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

University Quiz Implies Atheists Are Smarter Than Christians

Newsy (July 25, 2014) — An online quiz from a required course at Ohio State is making waves for suggesting atheists are inherently smarter than Christians. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) — A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins