Losing Money Multiple Times Causes Plastic Changes in the Brain
Researchers at the HSE Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience have shown experimentally that economic activity can actively change the brain. Signals that predict regular financial losses evoke plastic changes in the cortex. Therefore, these signals are processed by the brain more meticulously, which helps to identify such situations more accurately. The article was published in Scientific Reports.
The sight of an envelope from the tax authority, a falling currency rate, or a sad face of your chief accountant can mean impending financial troubles. How does the brain learn to recognize situations like this? Do these situations cause changes in brain function? These questions were studied by cognitive neuroscientists at HSE University using a popular economic game - the monetary incentive delay task (MID Task).
The MID Task requires that a person respond quickly to a signal that signals an opportunity to receive a reward or avoid a loss. It also allows you to divide brain mechanisms reward processing into separate stages: expectation of reward and learning.
Chief Research Fellow, Director, Centre for Cognition & Decision Making
We hypothesized that, like the plastic changes in the brain during the learning of a second language or playing a musical instrument, similar neuroplastic changes occur for certain signals that are associated with important economic outcomes. For example, the sound of a slot machine can for a long time be associated with a big win or loss while visiting a casino, which causes a particularly strong reaction in our brain in the future.
The subjects (29 people) took part in an economic game in which sound signals predicted losses of various sizes: the participants could lose between one and fifty-one monetary units in each round of the game. Participants had to quickly and accurately respond to audio signals to avoid monetary losses.
The study showed that participating in such a game leads to plastic changes in the auditory cortex of the brain, which begins to more accurately distinguish sounds that are associated with large financial losses. Moreover, scientists have demonstrated a link of this plastic change of the brain with the ‘learning signal’ generated by the human brain during performance of the MID Task. Subjects with a more pronounced neural ‘learning signal’ demonstrated stronger plastic changes in the nervous system.
The results of the experiment suggest that life's economic experience can lead to changes in the brain, which alters how external signals are perceived. Interestingly, the brain learns to identify important economic signals automatically. Moreover, scientists have shown precisely how this rewiring of the brain occurs and have demonstrated the role of individual differences in brain learning systems using the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Junior Research Fellow, International Laboratory of Social Neurobiology
This is the first experimental evidence to show that economic activity can actively change the brain. Signals leading to financial losses evoke rather fast neuroplastic changes. Therefore, they are identified by the brain automatically, and do not require voluntary attention.
‘In the Blink of an Eye’ Statistics: People Estimate Size of the Set of Objects Based on Distance to Them
HSE University researchers Yuri Markov and Natalia Tiurina discovered that when people visually estimate the size of objects, they are also able to consider their distance from the observer, even if there are many such objects. The observers rely not only on the objects’ retinal representation, but also on the surrounding context. The paper was published in the journal Acta Psychologica.
Scientists at HSE University have learned that disagreeing with the opinion of other people leaves a ‘trace’ in brain activity, which allows the brain to later adjust its opinion in favour of the majority-held point of view. The article was published in Scientific Reports.
Researchers from the HSE Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience have proposed a new method to process magnetoencephalography (MEG) data, which helps find cortical activation areas with higher precision. The method can be used in both basic research and clinical practice to diagnose a wide range of neurological disorders and to prepare patients for brain surgery. The paper describing the algorithm was published in the journal NeuroImage.
Today, neuroscience and robotics are developing hand in hand. Mikhail Lebedev, Academic Supervisor at HSE University’s Centre for Bioelectric Interfaces, spoke about how studying the brain inspires the development of robots.
Movement Recovery after Stroke Depends on the Integrity of Connections between the Cerebral Cortex and the Spinal Cord
A team of scientists, with the first author from the HSE University, were investigating which factors are the most important for the upper limb motor recovery after a stroke. The study is published in Stroke, the world's leading journal for cerebrovascular pathology.
HSE University scientists have for the first time in the world investigated the impact of delayed reinforcement signals in neurofeedback (NFB) training. They have experimentally proven that reducing the delay in feedback (decreasing feedback latency) can significantly increase the efficacy of training.
Researchers at the HSE University Centre for Language and Brain, in cooperation with a professor of neuropsychology from Lomonosov Moscow State University and specialists from the Centre for Speech Pathology and Neuro-rehabilitation, evaluated the diagnostic validity of the Standardized Assessment of Reading Skills in Russian (SARS) and checked whether the available normative data are current. The results of the study, the updated levels for reading speed, as well as the control levels for evaluating these indicators, were published in The Russian Journal of Cognitive Science.
Russian Research Team Gains Deeper Insight into the Workings of the Human Brain during Group Problem Solving
A team of Russian researchers with the participation of a leading researcher at HSE University, Ekaterina Pechenkova, found that during group problem solving the components of the social brain are co-activated, but they do not increase their coupling during cooperation as would be suggested for a holistic network. The study was published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
Many people are able to recognize the personality traits of the person they are talking to by their facial features. Experts in non-verbal communication can do this even with a photograph. But is it possible to teach artificial intelligence to do the same?
An international team of researchers carried out an experiment at HSE University demonstrating that knowledge of several languages can improve the performance of the human brain. In their study, they registered a correlation between participants’ cognitive control and their proficiency in a second language.