Vanderbilt neuroscientists identify 'oops center' in the brain

Have you ever wondered whats going on in your head when you say, Ooops!
Neuroscientists at Vanderbilt University have come up with an answer. They have shown that a set of neurons in a specific region of the brain reacts when you realize that you have made a mistake. The finding, reported in the Dec. 14 issue of the journal Nature, was made by post-doctoral fellows Veit Stuphorn and Tracy L. Taylornow an assistant professor at Dalhousie Universityand Professor of Psychology Jeffrey D. Schall.

The researchers propose that this region is part of an executive system that has evolved within the brain in order to control its own activity as it makes decisions, corrects errors and overrides habitual responses. Although cognitive psychologists generally agree that such a supervisory system must exist, this is one the first studies to reveal its workings at such a fundamental level.

The work is very important because it shows the cellular basis of self-control, says Sohee Park, associate professor of psychology at Vanderbilt. It gets at really basic questions of psychology and philosophy like the origin of thought and free will. It also has important implications for the understanding of schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and psychopathic behavior, she adds.

Schalls group specializes in the study of the brains control of eye movement. The study they report is based on an elegantly simple task: deciding whether or not to shift ones gaze. The researchers sat macaque monkeys in front of a computer screen. An eye-tracking system monitored where they were looking. A spot appeared in the center of the screen. When the monkeys gaze was fixed on the spot, the spot disappeared and another spot appeared on the periphery of its vision. If the monkey shifted its gaze to the new spot, it was rewarded with a drink of juice. During some of the trials, the central spot reappeared during the time the monkey was preparing to shift its gaze to t

Contact: David F. Salisbury
Vanderbilt University

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