Research press release


Nature Communications

Neuroscience: Changes in brain activity during adolescence benefits learning


報酬に敏感な脳領域(線条体)の反応が青年期の一時期に強くなる傾向のあることは、これまでの研究で明らかになっている。ところが、こうした活動の高まりは、リスクを負う行動が顕著になることや健康転帰が悪いことと関連付けられるのが一般的だった。今回、Sabine PetersとEveline Croneは、この線条体の反応の高まりにプラスの面もあることを明らかにした。今回行われた研究は、230人以上(評価段階によって変動あり)の被験者(8~25歳)を対象とし、それぞれの被験者にフィードバック学習課題(良い成績を挙げると報酬としてポジティブ・フィードバックを与えた)を実行させ、その際に機能的磁気共鳴画像法(fMRI)で脳を画像化した。この検査は、1人の被験者につき3度実施され、8~25歳の被験者に関する時系列データが収集された。


Increased activity in regions of the brain that have previously been associated with increased risk taking during adolescence seems to also benefit learning from feedback. Published in Nature Communications, the findings suggest that adolescence may be a unique life phase for increased feedback-learning performance.

Previous research has shown that the part of the brain that is sensitive to reward (the striatum) tends to react more during parts of adolescence than during other periods of life. However, this increased activity has usually been linked to increased risk taking and negative health outcomes. Here, Sabine Peters and Eveline Crone show that there is a positive side to this sensitivity. They studied over 230 participants (numbers varied over individual assessment phases) between the ages of 8-25. Each participant was set a feedback learning task (in which good performance was rewarded with positive feedback) while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Participants were assessed three times, which means that the authors have longitudinal data from participants ranging in age from 8-29 years old.

The results show that activity in the striatum responded to feedback, and that this response was strongest between the ages of 17-20. The more sensitive an individual was to feedback during learning, the better their current - and future - learning performance. Taken together, the findings show that the increased sensitivity to reward that is usually associated with negative behaviours in adolescence can also be leveraged positively, and can actually benefit learning.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-02174-z

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