How the brain adapts when goals shift.
Researchers have discovered how the brain is able to discard old goals and adopt new ones when it receives fresh information.
Using brain scans of human volunteers, researchers found that updating goals takes place in a region known as the prefrontal cortex, and appears to involve signals associated with the brain chemical dopamine.
“We have found a fundamental mechanism that contributes to the brain’s ability to concentrate on one task and then flexibly switch to another task,” says Jonathan Cohen, professor in neuroscience at Princeton University and co-director of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute. “Impairments in this system are central to many critical disorders of cognitive function such as those observed in schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder.”