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People will immediately try to correct themselves whenever they have an “oops” or “doh” moment.
Scientists call this performance monitoring, which they describe as the brain’s way of informing us that we made a mistake.
Recently, a research team finally discovered the precise location of these neurons and why they are important to the human brain, Cosmos magazine reported.
In a series of experiments, the team recorded the brain activity of epilepsy patients equipped with electrode brain implants to help locate the focus of their seizures.
The participants performed a number of complex cognitive activities. Among these was the Stroop task, which tested the reading- and color-naming skills of participants: For example, they would write the word “red” in a blue pen and then were asked to name the ink color rather than the written word.
Researchers found that two types of neurons operated in the brain’s medial frontal cortex: The “error” neurons would activate after a mistake was made, while “conflict” ones would fire up in response to the difficulty of the task.
“This indicates that this brain area plays a role in evaluating decisions after the fact, rather than making them,” said co-author Zhongzheng Fu.
Fu and his team explained that performance monitoring serves to improve the brain’s ability to learn new tasks and concentrate on developing highly specific skills.
“An ‘Oops!’ moment might prompt someone to pay closer attention the next time they chat with a friend or plan to stop at the store on the way home from work,” he said.