Sunday, 7 October 2012

Tracking Uncertainty's Origin in the Brain

(ISNS) -- A team of mind readers can now pinpoint exactly when a rat feels uncertain about its choices, simply by measuring its brain activity.

Doubt, they've discovered, creeps into the mind slowly. It starts with a few nerve cells near the front of the brain that get themselves into a tizzy. More and more cells join in, until a line is crossed and the mental maelstrom shakes up established patterns of brain activity -- allowing rats, and possibly humans as well, to question their old beliefs about the world and explore new options, researchers report in the October 5 issue of the journal Science.

"When your environment changes, you want to be able to reevaluate the world," said Alla Karpova, a neuroscientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm campus in Ashburn, Va. "We have seen an abrupt change in neural activity at a moment when an animal seems to abandon a previously held belief."


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