Oh @#$%! button lights up brain

July 1, 2006

We all make mistakes, and some cost more than others. It seems that your brain has a special compartment set aside to absorb these moments.

We all make mistakes, and some cost more than others. It seems that your brain has a special compartment set aside to absorb these moments.

Using functional MRI, Dr. Stephan Taylor, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School, and colleagues found that the rostral anterior cingulate cortex, or rACC, lights up when a person realizes he or she has made an error that carries consequences, such as losing money.

By contrast, the same area of the brain is virtually dormant when the mistake doesn't carry a penalty or when a correct action carries a reward.

Interestingly, obsessive-compulsive disorder patients had previously shown a more active rACC response compared with controls, but to a no-penalty error. Researchers want to use the same experiment with OCD patients to help pinpoint which of their brain circuits have gone awry (J Neurosci Apr 2006; 26:4063-4070).