Wednesday, May 05, 2004

From the New York Times.

""A region of the brain that lights up when someone makes an error, scientists have found, also springs into action when another person makes a mistake.

When subjects were told they had made a mistake, the anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in the perception of pain, became active instead — an activity pattern that was also duplicated in the observers' brains.

The study appears in the May issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

"It's as if the observers were making the errors themselves," said Dr. Michael G. H. Coles, an author of the study and a research fellow at the Donders Center, at the University of Nijmegen. "This could help explain how people learn by observing others."

The findings, Dr. Coles said, suggest that the anterior cingulate may come into play any time a situation turns out worse than someone expects.

If two people are racing against each other in a video game, for example, will one player's anterior cingulate still light up when the rival's car careers out of control?

"Is the anterior cingulate going to say that's good or bad, is it an error or is it a good outcome?" asked Dr. William J. Gehring, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan who has researched brain responses to errors. "One of the interesting issues is that this sort of presumes that you are working toward the same goal."

If the anterior cingulate is more attuned to self-serving goals, Dr. Gehring said, it is entirely possible that it will remain quiet in the face of another's misfortune.""