How We Make Decisions: Scientists Identify The Two Brain Mechanisms Which Control Speed And Accuracy

Image Credit: Tes Teach

According to a new research scientists have identified two distinct mechanisms in the human brain which control the balance between accuracy and speed when making decisions.

Apparently one network increases the amount of information needed for us to make accurate choices, while the other one tends to lower this threshold for fast decision making.

The team conducting the research believe these results can hold the key for improved treatments for illnesses related with the brain.

This discovery was made by Experimental Neurology at the University of Oxford, with the help of using new methods to determine just how quickly we are able to choose from an option and at the same time decide how much information we need to make the choice.

For over 100 years, scientists have been researching the connection between accuracy and speed in decision making.

Also various studies proved that the subthalamic nucleous region of the brain plays a very important role.

Peter Brown, Professor of Experimental Neurology at the University of Oxford said:

“Previous behavioural studies of decision making do not tell us about the actual events or networks that are responsible for making speed-accuracy adjustments.”

“We wanted to address this by measuring the exact location and timing of electrical activity in the subthalamic nucleus and comparing the results with behavioural data collected while a decision-making task is being performed.”

The team hired a total of 29 participants.

Around 11 of them were suffering with Parkinson’s disease and the team studied there reaction time.

And the other group, who were healthy, were asked to perform a moving-dot test – they had to decide if the cloud of moving dots was traveling left or right.

In order to achieve the best possible results, researchers would change the number of the dots moving in one direction.

The participants also received various alternating instructions to perform the task with either accuracy or speed

The researchers found that it was an easier task for the healthy subjects to make a quick decision when the task was easier – when the dots were moving in one direction.

This was easier for them when choosing from an option when they were made to make a quick decision.

The research also found that when the participants took more time in making a decision they would make more mistakes.

The computational model showed that the brain would take longer time in hard tests to get the necessary information to a critical threshold and make a decision.

Also when the participants were asked to focus on speed, this threshold was significantly lower than when they focused on accuracy.

In the research the next step was to determine the activated networks in the brain that control these behavioural modifications and the trade-off between fast and accurate decisions,’ explains first author and postdoctoral fellow Damian Herz.

Peter Brown said:

“We measured the electrical activity of groups of nerve cells within the subthalamic nucleus in patients with Parkinson’s disease, who had recently been treated with deep brain stimulation.”

“We found two distinct neural networks that differ in the way they are ordered and the way they respond to tasks.”

The professor added:

“One network increases the amount of information required before executing a decision and is therefore more likely to be activated when accuracy is important, while the second network tends to lower this threshold, especially when the choice needs to be made quickly.”

The results conclude that there is an increasing evidence that the pre-frontal cortex region of the brain contributes to decision making and opens up further interesting avenues to explore.

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Source: Daily Mail

Author: Mr.Bee

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