Rats and humans use a common neural mechanism while making changes in behaviors in order to learn from mistakes, reports a study published online in Nature Neuroscience this week.
Adaptive control in behavior allows animals to adjust their choices based on prior outcome. In both humans and animals, lesions to the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), in the anterior part of brain, are known to impair performance improvement in a variety of error-monitoring tasks, such as adjusting to a false start in a sprint. However, the exact mechanism by which the mPFC exerts such behavioral control was unclear.
Mark Laubach and colleagues show that rats and humans both use a common neural network mechanism when adjusting to choice error in a time estimation task that required behavioral adaptation in response to a cue. The authors find that low frequency oscillatory neuronal activities in the mPFC are modulated when rats and human make errors in the task. These activities were coupled to the activities to the motor regions of the human and rat brain and pharmacologically inactivating the mPFC in rats impaired both behavioral performance and oscillatory coupling to the motor cortex. These results suggest that the mPFC can synchronize other brain regions’ activity to modulate cognitive control in both rodents and primates.