Humans and other animals learn by making mistakes. They can also learn from observing the mistakes of others. The brain processes self-generated errors in a region called the medial frontal cortex (MFC) but little is known about how it processes the observed errors of others. A Japanese research team led by Masaki Isoda and Atsushi Iriki of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute has now demonstrated that the MFC is involved in processing observed errors
The team studied the brains of monkeys while the animals performed the same task. Two monkeys sat opposite each other and took turns to choose between a yellow and green button, one of which resulted in a liquid reward for both. Each monkey’s turn consisted of two choices.
In this way they were able to determine which behavioural aspect was most closely associated with each neuron’s activity, explains Isoda. “We found that many neurons in the medial frontal cortex were not activated when the monkey made an error itself, but they became active when their partner made an error.” This brain activity shows that it is the MFC which processes observations of another’s error, and the corresponding behavior shows that observing and processing such errors guides subsequent actions.
read more at RIKEN