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Technology Reveals Learning Patterns in Brain

Neuroimaging techniques are giving researchers a new view of how the brain works and learns.

Scientists have known that with practice and skill, many movements become automatic so that tasks like riding a bicycle or catching a ball can be performed without much attention or mental effort.

Emerging research provides evidence that the cerebellum, a part of the brain used to store memories for skilled movements, could also store memories important for mental skills — such as the rules used to interpret traffic light signals.

The prefrontal cortex, in the frontal lobe, uses problem-solving to establish the correct rules using attention, and the new research raises the possibility that the cerebellum then learns to implement them skilfully with little conscious attention, freeing the prefrontal cortex to direct attention to new problems.

The study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, reported that brain imaging was used to scan volunteers during learning, and that in a part of the cerebellum known to be connected with the prefrontal cortex, activity changed from one practice trial to the next.

The rate of change was faster for rules that became automatic more quickly. After practice, volunteers used simple rules quickly and accurately even when attention drawn away by a “distractor” task performed at the same time.

Researcher Narender Ramnani, Ph.D., of the University of Royal Holloway in London, said: “The study adds to the groundwork for understanding cognitive deficits in patients with cerebellar damage and improving strategies for their rehabilitation. It also raises the possibility that the cerebellum might be used for the skillful, automatic and unconscious use of mathematical and grammatical rules.”

Source: University of Royal Holloway London

Technology Reveals Learning Patterns in Brain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Technology Reveals Learning Patterns in Brain. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 16, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/10/technology-reveals-learning-patterns-in-brain/23378.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.