How many times have you said something and then regretted it? If your answer is many, then we might have the perfect article for you that explains why the human brain sometimes goes slower than our mouth.
Researchers discovered that the human brain begins to ‘equip’ the motor areas to answer very quickly during primary incentive performance. This suggests that we get ready to respond even before we know what the reply will be.
“This might explain why people sometimes say things before they think,” said Avgusta Shestyuk, a senior researcher in UC Berkeley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute.
She was also a lead author of a paper involving the recent issue of Nature Human Behavior.
Neuroscientists from the University of California, Berkeley, followed the development of a thought through the human brain.
They showed how the prefrontal cortex in the front of the brain organizes an activity to help us respond to a perception.
Scientists cautiously observed the electrical movement of neurons directly from the brain’s surface. They concluded that even for the simplest assignment, such as repeating a word presented visually, the visual and sensory cortexes responded first to perceive the word.
The prefrontal cortex then contributed to deciphering its meaning by activating the motor cortex, preparing for an answer.
During the half-second between stimulus and response, the prefrontal cortex remained active to coordinate all the other brain zones.
For a relatively harder job, such as finding a word’s antonym, the brain needed a few seconds to respond.
During this, the prefrontal cortex obtained other areas of the human brain, such as imperceptible memory networks.
Then again, the prefrontal cortex allowed the motor cortex to produce an auditive answer.
Henceforth, the faster the brain’s handoff was, the faster people responded.
These discoveries regarding the prefrontal cortex and its roleplay into activating areas of the brain, helped scientists to finally generate some conclusions.
“These very selective studies have found that the frontal cortex is the orchestrator, linking things together for a final output,” said co-author Robert Knight, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience and a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at UCSF.
“Here we have eight different experiments, somewhere the patients have to talk and others where they have to push a button, where some are visual and others auditory, and all found a universal signature of activity centered in the prefrontal lobe that links perception and action. It’s the glue of cognition.”
There were other scientists who tried to record the activity of thinking inside the brain. However, they all used magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography.
On the other hand, UC Berkeley scientists used much more advanced technology, so-called electrocorticography.
Namely, this technique takes record of numerous electrodes on the brain’s surface and recognizes activity in the thin external region, the cortex, where thinking occurs.
Electrocorticography offers a better time determination and better spatial analysis.On the negative side, it needs access to epilepsy patients bearing profoundly intrusive surgeries. It involves opening the skull to diagnose the exact location of seizures.
This particular study engaged 16 epilepsy patients who voluntarily agreed to participate.
They were undergoing epilepsy surgeries at UC San Francisco and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.
“This is the first step in looking at how people think and how people come up with different decisions.
“We are trying to look at that little window of time between when things happen in the environment and us behaving in response to it,” said Shestyuk.
Shestyuk and her colleagues set electrodes on the patients’ brains. In that moment, they began a series of eight tasks with visual and audible incentives. The tasks varied from simple to more complex.
During the tasks, the brain manifested four different types of neural activity.
First, sensitive areas of the hearing and visual cortex stimulated a process of audible or visual signs.
Next, areas fundamentally in the sensory and prefrontal cortices activated to secure the meaning of the stimulus.
The prefrontal cortex is active all the time during the whole process. It coordinates the input from different areas of the brain.
Finally, the prefrontal cortex drops as the motor cortex initiates to create a spoken response or an action.
Knight said, “Sustained activity in the prefrontal cortex is what guides a perception into an action.”