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brain image highlights neural activity

A competitor's failures, rather than successes, tend to stimulate a person's neural activity, as in the brain image shown here.

Credit: University of Bristol

University of Bristol researchers recently conducted a study using brain imaging to reveal how people can learn from failure and success using a computer. The team, led by Bristol senior lecturers Paul Howard-Jones and Rafal Bogacz, scanned the brains of players as they battled against an artificial opponent in a computer game. The researchers found that the computer's unexpected failure generated additional brain activity in the participants and created reward and learning signals in the players.

In addition, when the players were observing the computer make selections, their brains were activated as if they were performing the actions themselves. The study showed that this type of "mirror neuron" learning, which is typical when people learn from other people, also can take place when learning on a computer, even without the use of animated graphics.

"We were surprised to see the mirror neuron system activating in response to a computer," says Howard-Jones. "If the human brain can respond as though a computer has a mind, that's probably good news for those wishing to use the computer as a teacher."

From University of Bristol
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