Scientists identify two brain networks influencing how we make decisions

first_imgShare on Twitter Share on Facebook Email LinkedIn Sharecenter_img Scientists at the Medical Research Council Brain Network Dynamics Unit at the University of Oxford have pinpointed two distinct mechanisms in the human brain that control the balance between speed and accuracy when making decisions.Their discovery, published in eLife, sheds new light on the networks that determine how quickly we choose an option, and how much information we need to make that choice. A more detailed understanding of this intricate wiring in the brain holds the key to developing better treatments for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.The fundamental trade-off between speed and accuracy in decision making has been studied for more than a century, with a number of studies suggesting that the subthalamic nucleus region of the brain plays a key role. Pinterest “Previous behavioural studies of decision making do not tell us about the actual events or networks that are responsible for making speed-accuracy adjustments,” says senior author Peter Brown, Professor of Experimental Neurology at the University of Oxford. “We wanted to address this by measuring the exact location and timing of electrical activity in the subthalamic nucleus and comparing the results with behavioural data collected while a decision-making task is being performed.”Brown and his team first studied the reaction times of 11 patients with Parkinson’s disease and 18 healthy participants, who were each asked to perform a moving-dots task. This required them to decide whether a cloud of moving dots appeared to be moving to the left or the right. The difficulty of the task was varied by changing the number of dots moving in one direction, and the participants were given randomly alternating instructions to perform the task with either speed or accuracy.The researchers found that participants made much faster decisions when the task was easier – with the dots moving in a single direction – and when instructed to make a quick decision. They also found, in line with previous studies, that participants made significantly more errors during tests where they spent longer making a decision after being instructed to emphasise accuracy.Using a computational model, they saw that it took longer in the more difficult tests for the brain to accumulate the necessary information to reach a critical threshold and make a decision. When the participants were asked to focus on speed, this threshold was significantly lower than when they focused on accuracy.“The next step was to determine the activated networks in the brain that control these behavioural modifications and the trade-off between fast and accurate decisions,” explains first author and postdoctoral fellow Damian Herz. “We measured the electrical activity of groups of nerve cells within the subthalamic nucleus in patients with Parkinson’s disease, who had recently been treated with deep brain stimulation. We found two distinct neural networks that differ in the way they are ordered and the way they respond to tasks.“One network increases the amount of information required before executing a decision and is therefore more likely to be activated when accuracy is important, while the second network tends to lower this threshold, especially when the choice needs to be made quickly.”The findings add to the increasing evidence that the pre-frontal cortex region of the brain contributes to decision making and opens up further interesting avenues to explore.“We know that changes in activity of one of the sites we identified is also related to movement control,” adds Brown. “Close relationships between these neural networks could mean that a common signal is responsible for adjustments in both the speed of decision and of the resulting movement. A better understanding of these mechanisms might make it possible to focus therapeutic interventions on specific neural circuits to improve treatment of neurological disorders in the future.”last_img read more

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Sara Bareilles & John Legend ready to bring “Jesus Christ Superstar Live” to TV Sunday night

first_img Related Virginia Sherwood/NBC(NEW YORK) — Sunday night, pop star Sara Bareilles and R&B star John Legend star as Mary and Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, NBC’s live production of the classic Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice musical.  Performing a legendary musical live on TV might seem daunting, but for musicians like Sara and John, it’s no big deal.“I’m used to the idea of playing in front of an audience and that being it,” John explains. “You don’t get to go back and do another take, you don’t get to rehearse it more…so I’m excited for the challenge of doing this show live.”“It’s electric and thrilling,” adds Sara, who in addition to performing live concerts has also starred in the Broadway musical Waitress, which she co-wrote.  She jumped at the chance to do this one.“It was a no-brainer. I said yes within 30 seconds of being asked the question,” Sara raves. “I love this project, I love this score, I love this moment in time to be doing this show on this day. I’m just thrilled.”Jesus Christ Superstar follows Jesus in the last week of his life; Sara explains, “It’s the betrayal, it’s the crucifixion, it’s his relationship with Mary Magdalene. It’s a roller-coaster of emotion.”It’s that emotion, John says, that makes the show so impactful.“We’ve seen Jesus as a deity for so long,” he says. “And I think what’s special about this show is that it talks about the human emotions that Jesus quite likely felt…the sense of betrayal, the sense of, ‘Why was I chosen for this?’”As John notes, “The power of this show is that it imbues this deity with emotions that we can all relate to.”Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert airs Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.Powered by WPeMaticolast_img read more

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