Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Monkeys can play Monday morning quarterback, too

Date:
May 26, 2011
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
Regret has long been viewed as an exclusively human thought, one which helps prevent us from repeating bad choices but becomes debilitating when it triggers obsessive thoughts about past actions. Now a new study shows that monkeys also can be Monday morning quarterbacks and visualize alternative, hypothetical outcomes.

Yale researchers show that monkeys can make the same sort of "what if" mental notes that humans do, such as in this game of rock paper scissors.
Credit: Courtesy of Yale University

Regret has long been viewed as an exclusively human thought, one which helps prevent us from repeating bad choices but becomes debilitating when it triggers obsessive thoughts about past actions.

Now a new study by Yale University researchers shows that monkeys also can be Monday morning quarterbacks and visualize alternative, hypothetical outcomes. The findings, reported in the May 26 issue of the journal Neuron, pinpoint areas of the brain where this process takes place and may give scientists new clues into how to treat diseases such as depression and schizophrenia.

"Regret serves us well most of the time, by helping us recognize choices that lead to bad outcomes," said Daeyeol Lee, professor of neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine and the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience and co-author of the study. "But sometimes regret can be very damaging."

Regret essentially is the ability to recognize that alternate courses of action could have led to more favorable outcome. For instance, someone who bought a home at the height of the housing market envisions a better outcome if she or he had rented a home or moved to a healthier market. We don't only learn by being rewarded or punished for specific actions, the way many psychologists once believed, Lee noted.

"Our brain is wired to run these hypothetical simulations all the time," Lee said. "If you try to learn only from the actual outcomes of your own experience, this represents only a tiny fraction of information you can get from your world."

Lee and co-author Hiroshi Abe, in the Department of Neurobiology, recorded neuronal activity in rhesus monkeys as they played a modified game of rock-paper-scissors, receiving large juice rewards for winning games, smaller rewards for tying and nothing for losing. Monkeys were more likely in the subsequent round to pick the winning symbol in the previous game -- for instance selecting paper if a rock smashed scissors. In other words, they were able to imagine a different outcome.

The Yale team also found that neural activity in the brain area known as the prefrontal cortex reflects both rational and emotional aspects of regret. One of its subdivisions is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area previously implicated for other complex cognitive functions, such as working memory, and the neurons in this area signal what action would have led to a better outcome. By contrast, the orbitofrontal cortex, another region in the prefrontal cortex, focuses more on the emotional aspects of regret. Knowing the neural home of regret may help researchers find drugs to treat mental illnesses in which patients obsess over past decisions that have led to poor outcomes, Lee said. He also notes that hallucination common in the patients of schizophrenia -- sometimes losing the ability to discriminate the sources of voices -- may be caused by the loss of ability to learn from both actual and hypothetical outcomes simultaneously.

The work is funded by the National Institutes of Health and Yale Kavli Institute for Neuroscience.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hiroshi Abe, Daeyeol Lee. Distributed Coding of Actual and Hypothetical Outcomes in the Orbital and Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortex. Neuron, Volume 70, Issue 4, 731-741, 26 May 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.03.026

Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Monkeys can play Monday morning quarterback, too." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110525123951.htm>.
Yale University. (2011, May 26). Monkeys can play Monday morning quarterback, too. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110525123951.htm
Yale University. "Monkeys can play Monday morning quarterback, too." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110525123951.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Do Video Games Trump Brain Training For Cognitive Boosts?

Newsy (Sep. 29, 2014) More and more studies are showing positive benefits to playing video games, but the jury is still out on brain training programs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Your Spouse's Personality May Influence Your Earnings

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Research from Washington University suggest people with conscientious spouses have greater career success. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Can A Blood Test Predict Psychosis Risk?

Newsy (Sep. 26, 2014) Researchers say certain markers in the blood can predict risk of psychosis later in the life. The test can aid in early treatment for the condition. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

Harpist Soothes Gorillas, Orangutans With Music

AP (Sep. 25, 2014) Teri Tacheny, a harpist, has a loyal following of fans who appreciate her soothing music. Every month, gorillas, orangutans and monkeys amble down to hear her play at the Como Park Zoo in Minnesota. (Sept. 25) Video provided by AP
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

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