Unique brain area behind better planning, decision-making
Researchers have identified an area of the brain that appears to be uniquely human and is likely to have something to do with your cognitive powers.
"The brain area discovered is known to be intimately involved in some of the most advanced planning and decision-making processes that we think of as being especially human," said researchers at Oxford University.
"This ventrolateral frontal cortex area of the brain is involved in many of the highest aspects of cognition and language and is only present in humans and other primates," said Matthew Rushworth of Oxford University's department of experimental psychology.
The scientists took MRI imaging of 25 adult volunteers to identify key components in the ventrolateral frontal cortex area of the human brain and how these components were connected up with other brain areas.
The results were then compared to equivalent MRI data from 25 macaque monkeys.
From the MRI data, the researchers were able to divide the human ventrolateral frontal cortex into 12 areas that were consistent across all the individuals.
The researchers also found that 11 of the 12 areas were common in monkey prefrontal cortex.
However, one area of the human ventrolateral frontal cortex had no equivalent in the macaque - an area called the lateral frontal pole prefrontal cortex.
"This area has been identified with strategic planning and decision making as well as multi-tasking," said first author Franz-Xaver Neubert of Oxford University.
They found that some parts in this brain area are implicated in psychiatric conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), drug addiction or compulsive behaviour disorders.
A better understanding of the neural connections and networks involved should help the understanding of changes in the brain that go along with these conditions, said the study published in the science journal Neuron.
(Posted on 29-01-2014)