Neuroscientists Identify Physiological Link Between Trial and Error and Learning


Learning through trial and error often requires subjects to establish new physiological links by using information about trial outcome to strengthen correct responses or modify incorrect responses. New findings, which appear in the latest issue of the journal Neuron, establish a physiological measure linking trial outcome and learning.

“Our results open a new door to understanding the important role of trial outcome in the learning process,” said Wendy Suzuki, a professor at New York University’s Center for Neural Science and a co-author of the study.

The study’s other co-authors included researchers from France’s National Center for Scientific Research, the Harvard Medical School, and the University of California, Davis. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

For the past half century, scientists have examined the role of the brain’s medial temporal lobe in learning. Previous scholarship has determined that a critical function of the medial temporal lobe is to successfully acquire new information about facts and events (“declarative learning”) by making new associations between initially unrelated items (“associative learning”).

The researchers on the study published in Neuron sought to understand if there is a link between how the brain functions in associative learning and in processing information about trial outcome. Specifically, they were interested in cell activity in a portion of medial temporal lobe called the hippocampus. Earlier research had found that hippocampal neurons are involved in associative learning, suc 500

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