Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Making the right choices in changing circumstances: Cognitive flexibility in the brain

Date:
May 27, 2014
Source:
Canadian Association for Neuroscience
Summary:
Choosing what is best is not always simple. Should one choose a small, certain reward, or take risks and try to get a larger reward? New research sheds light on the brain circuits that interact to help us decide the best strategy to adopt in changing circumstances.

Choosing what is best is not always simple. Should one choose a small, certain reward, or take risks and try to get a larger reward? New research by Stan Floresco, from the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia sheds light on the brain circuits that interact to help us decide the best strategy to adopt in changing circumstances. These results were presented at the 8th annual Canadian Neuroscience Meeting, taking place May 25-28 2014 in Montreal, Canada.

The studies of Dr. Floresco and his team used rats to show that areas deep inside the brain promote a more visceral bias towards large, but uncertain rewards, while brain regions located in the frontal lobes (which regulate higher order functions such as reasoning and planning), regulate and temper these urges when circumstances show the riskier option may be unlikely to yield reward. "It seems that the more primitive regions of the brain drive impulses to pursue larger rewards, but the frontal lobes take a longer view of the situation and put the brakes on these urges in situations when larger rewards may not be the most profitable ones in the long term," explains Dr. Floresco.

In another study, Dr. Floresco revealed that the activity of dopamine neurons seem to provide the brain with short-term updates of the outcomes of recent decisions that can influence the direction of subsequent ones. "Dopamine neurons show brief increases or decreases in activity when rewards are either received or not. However, we showed that if we turned these neurons off after a rewarded choice, or turned them on after a non-rewarded one, we could, in essence, remote control the decision making of these animals, making them behave as if they did not receive a reward (that they actually did) or vice versa," says Dr. Floresco.

Dr. Floresco also recently published an important paper highlighting the important and until recently underestimated role of another brain region, called the lateral habenula, in decision making. "An emerging view was that this brain region was primarily involved in signalling when something bad occured. Yet, our results show that its function is much more complex. When we shut down neural activity within this region, animals show random patterns of decision making, suggesting that this region plays a key role in promoting decision biases in one direction or another."

These results show the dynamic competition that exists between signals coming from different brain regions. The integration of these signals requires cognitive flexibility, which is the ability to react differently, update behavior and make appropriate choices in response to changes in one's environment.

Understanding how these signals are transmitted and act in the normal brain can help explain many neuropsychiatric conditions in which this signalling is defective. Schizophrenia is associated with abnormal activity in many of the same brain regions involved in efficient decision making. Delusions associated with schizophrenia can stem from associating strong emotional response to an innocuous situation. Not associating the right affective importance to pleasurable or aversive stimuli can result in inability to feel positive emotions like pleasure and to feel desire, which is one of the hallmarks of depression. Drug addiction can also be considered as a disease of decision making. "By clarifying the mechanisms through which different brain circuits interact to guide normal decision making, these studies may provide important insight into the brain dysfunction that may occur in these different disorders," concludes Dr. Floresco.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

Canadian Association for Neuroscience. "Making the right choices in changing circumstances: Cognitive flexibility in the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 May 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527124103.htm>.
Canadian Association for Neuroscience. (2014, May 27). Making the right choices in changing circumstances: Cognitive flexibility in the brain. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527124103.htm
Canadian Association for Neuroscience. "Making the right choices in changing circumstances: Cognitive flexibility in the brain." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140527124103.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Can You Train Your Brain To Eat Healthy?

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) New research says if you condition yourself to eat healthy foods, eventually you'll crave them instead of junk food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Coffee Then Napping: The (New) Key To Alertness

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) Researchers say having a cup of coffee then taking a nap is more effective than a nap or coffee alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

Young Entrepreneurs Get $100,000, If They Quit School

AFP (Aug. 29, 2014) Twenty college-age students are getting 100,000 dollars from a Silicon Valley leader and a chance to live in San Francisco in order to work on the start-up project of their dreams, but they have to quit school first. Duration: 02:20 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Baby Babbling Might Lead To Faster Language Development

Newsy (Aug. 29, 2014) A new study suggests babies develop language skills more quickly if their parents imitate the babies' sounds and expressions and talk to them often. 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