Study finds brain areas involved in seeking information about bad possibilities

Ilya Monosov, PhD, presents data on brain activity obtained while monkeys are tackling uncertainty. Monosov and colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis’ School of Medicine have identified areas of the brain that are involved in the choice of whether or not a bad event is likely to occur.Credit: University of Washington Photo Service

The term “Doomscrolling” refers to the act of scrolling endlessly on bad news on social media and reading every annoying bite that pops up. This unfortunately seems to have become common during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The biology of our brain may play a role in it. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis Medical School brain Anything that becomes active when an individual learns information about an unwanted aversive event or is faced with the choice of hiding it from the information may be ineffective for the individual.

Survey results published on June 11 NeuronCan shed light on the underlying processes of mental states, such as: Obsessive-compulsive disorder And anxiety — not to mention how we all deal with the vast amount of information that is characteristic of modern life.

“People’s brains aren’t well prepared to cope with the information age,” said Dr. Ilya Monosov, an associate professor of neuroscience, neurosurgery, and biomedical engineering. .. “People are constantly checking, checking, and checking the news, but some of those checks are completely useless. What is our modern lifestyle to survive in uncertain and ever-changing situations? It may be rebuilding the circuits of the brain that have evolved over a million years. The world. “

Studying in 2019 monkey, J. Kael White, Ph.D., a member of Monosov’s lab. , Then graduate student, and senior scientist Ethan S. Bromberg-Martin, Ph.D. Identified two people. Brain region Involved in tracking uncertainties about positively anticipated events such as rewards. Activities in those areas motivated monkeys to find information about possible good things.

However, it was not clear whether the same circuit was involved in looking for information about negatively anticipated events such as punishment. After all, most people want to know, for example, whether betting on horse racing can be very successful. The bad news is not.

“At the clinic, when we give patients the opportunity to have a genetic test, such as Huntington’s disease, some people get the test as soon as possible, while others refuse it. We test until symptoms appear,” he said. “Clinicians see behaviors that seek information, while others see behaviors that they fear.”

Lead authors Ahmad Jezzini, Ph.D., to find the neural circuits involved in deciding whether to look for information about unwelcome possibilities. Said Monosov to teach the two monkeys to recognize when unpleasant things would go. They trained the monkeys and recognized the signs that they might be trying to blow stimulating air into their faces. For example, monkeys initially displayed a single symbol indicating that a puff might come, but the certainty varies. A few seconds after the first symbol was displayed, a second symbol was displayed to resolve the animal’s uncertainty. It told the monkey that the puff was definitely coming or not.

Researchers want to know what happens when an animal monitors a second signal, looks away, or lets the monkey choose from a variety of symbols and their results in another experiment. I measured it.

Like humans, the two monkeys showed different attitudes towards the bad news. Others don’t like it.Differences in their attitude towards Bad news The good news was that they had similar hearts and were impressive. When given the option to find out what they liked, that is, whether they were going to receive a drop of juice, they chose to do it consistently.

Neuroscience instructor Jezini said, “The attitude of seeking information about negative events can be bidirectional, even among animals that have the same attitude about positive and rewarding events. I found it. ” “For us, it was a sign that two attitudes might be guided by different neural processes.”

By accurately measuring neural activity in the brain while monkeys face these choices, researchers have found one brain region, Anterior cingulate cortex, It encodes information about attitudes towards good and bad possibilities separately.They found a second brain region Ventral prefrontal cortexIncludes individual cells that carry out activities that reflect the overall attitude of the monkey. Yes for information about good or bad possibilities, yes for information about good possibilities only.

To understand the Neural circuit The underlying uncertainty is the first step towards better treatment for people who cannot tolerate the uncertainty, such as anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

“We started this research because we wanted to know how the brain encodes our desire to know what our future is waiting for us. That’s what Monosov said. “We live in a world where our brains haven’t evolved. Staying informed is a new challenge for us to address. information Seeking is very important for society and for mental health at the population level. ”

Anxiety cell roots identified

For more information:
Ahmad Jezzini et al, the prefrontal cortex network integrates prior information preferences regarding uncertain rewards and punishments, Neuron (2021). DOI: 10.1016 / j.neuron.2021.05.013

Quote: According to the survey, bad possibilities obtained on June 11, 2021 from https: // (June 11, 2021) ) Found a brain region involved in the search for information

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