Mediodorsal thalamus allows us to incorporate new information in decision-making Scientists have confirmed one of the brain areas responsible for rapid updating of information during learning — the sort of information we use to negotiate many changing situations in everyday life.
In a study funded by the Medical Research Council and published in journal eLife, a team from Oxford University and Imperial College looked at an area called the mediodorsal thalamus (MD), known to be involved in decision making and learning.
Senior author and Oxford researcher Dr Anna Mitchell explained: ‘We already knew that the mediodorsal thalamus is involved in learning and decision making but did not fully understand the role it played. A key question in neurosciences is how the brain computes functions like planning a day’s activities or making a decision to do one thing rather than another. We process information using widespread networks across the brain, so it is useful to focus on the contribution of particular areas to the overall task. In this case, we chose to look at how the mediodorsal thalamus supports optimal processing of new learning and decision making.’
The study used Rhesus macaque monkeys, who were taught cognitive tasks on touchscreen computers that released food rewards for learning new information and making good choices. These tests were then repeated after surgery that induced selective lesions to the MD.
Monkeys who could not use their MD were less able to respond to changes that required them to adapt their behaviour to continue making the right choices to…