The findings by Vanderbilt University computational neuroscientist David Noelle and his colleagues were published in the May 17, 2005, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"This model is the first to offer an explanation of how the neural circuits that allow us to apply rules and strategies to new situations develop," Noelle, assistant professor of computer science and psychology, said. "Our model provides an account of how the special properties of certain brain systems combine with life experiences to allow us to apply what we have learned to new situations. This account sheds light on why this ability sometimes fails, and on how brain damage can impact this ability."
The computer model is also the first of its kind capable of completing a variety of tests commonly used to determine if a patient has suffered injury to the frontal lobes of the brain. When inflicted with simulated damage, the model exhibited behaviors seen in people with frontal lobe damage.
"This computer model can provide insight into what causes the self-control deficits seen in individuals with damage to the frontal lobe," Noelle said. "An even more exciting prospect, which we are just beginning to explore, is the possibility that the model will help us understand the neural basis of developmental disorders involving flexible cognitive control, such as ADHD and autism spectrum disorders."
Researchers have known for some time that cognitive control, which is our ability to respond in an appropriate way even when faced
Contact: Melanie Catania