What Oops Moments Look Like in Your Brain

What "Oops!" Moments Look Like in Your Brain

                The adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks belittles the cognitive powers of the brain.  We’re finding out every day how flexible and adaptable the brain really is, and our understanding of its complex functions is growing at an exponential rate. Delve into the fascinating world of ‘oops’ moments and unravel the cognitive processes underlying our brain’s occasional blunders.

                The brain’s remarkable ability to generalize and specialize within seconds is a crucial aspect of learning and skill development.

                Recent research from Cedars-Sinai’s Neural Science delves into the brain’s learning process and goal achievement mechanisms extensively. The brain achieves an ongoing feedback loop, crucial for optimal functioning, akin to high-tech computers’ self-detection and adjustment capabilities.

                It’s self-directed feedback, akin to recognizing an “oops!” moment, remembered and used to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Performance monitoring goes beyond conscience or social avoidance—it showcases your brain’s remarkable capabilities in real-time error detection.

Error Detection Neurons

                When your brain is busy and recognizes a mistake was made, it takes two different types of neurons to get the performance monitoring process initiated.  Right after the mistake was made, specific neurons fire to say “hey, there was an error here,” while other neurons fire to alert the brain of conflict, respective to how difficult the task at hand was which caused the mistakes.

                Both types of neurons only become active right after a decision or action has been taken.  They are seen activating during cognitive performance tests in the medial front cortex.  What really stands out is that there are two kinds of performance monitoring happening simultaneously which bring awareness and neuronal activation in domain general and domain specific contexts.  Monitoring performance in domain general alerts the brain that an error was made but doesn’t differentiate what the brain or body was doing when the error occurred. 

                That’s where domain specific performance monitoring comes in, and it tells the brain exactly what caused the error.  This hones skill development over time, while domain general performance monitoring allows someone to take skills from one task and apply them to a completely different task with very little direction.

Next time you make a mistake or switch tasks, appreciate your brain’s real-time performance reporting capabilities.

Further Reading

Zhongzheng Fu, Danielle Beam, Jeffrey M. Chung, et. al. The geometry of domain-general performance monitoring in the human medial frontal cortexScience, 2022; 376 (6593) DOI: 10.1126/science.abm9922

Also read our blog on The 6 Best Adderall Alternatives in 2024 (and Beyond)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *