Neuroscientists capture the moment a brain records an idea
Brain imaging technology has offered the first glimpse into how new concepts develop in the brain. The research, carried out at Carnegie Mellon University and published in Human Brain Mapping, involved teaching people a new concept and observing how it was coded in the same areas of the brain through neural representations.
The "olinguito", a largely fruit-eating carnivore species that lives in rainforest treetops, newly discovered in 2013, was initially used as a concept. Marcel Just, a professor of cognitive neuroscience in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, commented: "When people learned that the olinguito eats mainly fruit instead of meat, a region of their left inferior frontal gyrus, as well as several other areas, stored the new information according to its own code."
The findings revealed that this new knowledge of the olinguito was encoded in exactly the same parts of the brain by everyone who learned it, indicating that the brain may operate its own kind of universal filing system.
In the latest research, 16 study participants were taught information about the diet and dwelling habits of eight extinct animals, in order to study the growth of the neural representations of these concepts in their brains. Drawing on the previous findings, the team predicted where this new knowledge would be stored.