Judgement bay

We now know the neurons that help the brain recognise errors of judgement

Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

scientists have located the specific set of neurons in the brain where error recognition occurs. The area may be part of a larger system that has evolved in the brain to make decisions, correct errors and override habitual responses. Neuroscientists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, usa, monitored the brain activity of monkeys at a level of resolution that is not possible in humans: to isolate the so-called 'oops' centre in a monkey's brain. The findings can have important implications for mental and neurological illnesses as well as for a fundamental human question -- do we really have free will?

A group of macaque monkeys were made to go through a series of tests. The researchers monitored neuron activity in a part of the brain called the 'supplementary eye field'. They found three types of neurons in the area. One type acts when the monkey realises it has made a correct decision. The second reacts when the monkey becomes cognisant of its mistakes. The third responds when the brain receives conflicting instructions.

The studies are a step forward in discovering the brain's regulatory system, which could be very useful in in understanding development among children, among other areas, says Michael Posner, director of Cornell University's Sackler Institute for developmental psychology in New York, usa

The findings will help develop treatments for people with Parkinson's and other neurological diseases, as well as for schizophrenics, a majority of whom have difficulty managing executive control of eye movements. The discovery also raises an interesting question about the present day notion of self-control: do we control our actions?

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