Research in the News: How the brain stops us from making the same mistake twice

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To err is human, the saying goes, but both rats and people share a common neural mechanism to ensure they don’t make the same mistake twice, a new study led by Yale University researchers show.

The study published online Oct. 20 in the journal Nature Neuroscience helps explain why we can adjust our behavior to correct timing mistakes — such as swinging late at a fastball or showing up late to work.

These corrections are controlled by the medial prefrontal cortex of both rats and humans through low-frequency “theta” oscillations. When this area of the brain is turned off, the strength of the oscillations increases and “blocks the ability of the brain to encode previous successes and failures,” said Mark Laubach, associate professor of neurobiology, associate fellow at the Pierce Laboratory, and senior author of the paper.

Laubach said that the study will enable new lines of research on the prefrontal cortex that cannot be done in humans and will reveal the cellular mechanisms of cognitive processing. For more information, visit the journal’s website.

(Image via Shutterstock)

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