Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Brain correlates of developing intuition.

An interesting open access study from Wan et al.:
The superior capability of cognitive experts largely depends on automatic, quick information processing, which is often referred to as intuition. Intuition develops following extensive long-term training. There are many cognitive models on intuition development, but its neural basis is not known. Here we trained novices for 15 weeks to learn a simple board game and measured their brain activities in early and end phases of the training while they quickly generated the best next-move to a given board pattern. We found that the activation in the head of caudate nucleus developed over the course of training, in parallel to the development of the capability to quickly generate the best next-move, and the magnitude of the caudate activity was correlated with the subject's performance. In contrast, cortical activations, which already appeared in the early phase of training, did not further change. Thus, neural activation in the caudate head, but not those in cortical areas, tracked the development of capability to quickly generate the best next-move, indicating that circuitries including the caudate head may automate cognitive computations.
A few pictures showing location of the caudate head (pointed to by to line in right figure):

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