Researchers find brain’s 'ordering centre'

Aug 14, 2007

Researchers at McGill University’s Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI) have pinpointed the previously unknown part of the human brain responsible for perceiving and storing ordered visual information. This capacity is fundamental to high-level planning and is unique to humans and other primates like monkeys and chimpanzees, said study co-author Dr. Michael Petrides, director of the MNI’s Neuropsychology/Cognitive Neuroscience Unit.

"Our capacity to plan and manipulate information in the mind is dependent on our ability to take in the precise order of things." continued Petrides. "Dogs and cats and rats and squirrels have a lot of memory capacity, but their brains probably do not have the ability to capture the precise order of sequences of items. Approximate order is perceived based on salient features such as the stronger impression of the most recently seen item."

The study, co-authored by postdoctoral research fellow Céline Amiez and Petrides, was pre-published online in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of August 13. In the study, seventeen volunteer test subjects were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as they were shown sequences of abstract black and white images.

"Immediately after they were shown the first sequence of images, they were shown the first and the second image or the third and the first and so on." explained Petrides. "Then they had to make a judgment about which image came earlier." The researchers monitored activity within the brain during performance of this task and thus were able to localize the specific area within the mid-dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) responsible for taking in and maintaining the precise order of visual stimuli or events perceived by the observer.

The abstract Mondrian-like designs used in the study were chosen specifically because they could not be easily verbalized, to filter out the effects of verbal memory. "We wanted to study the capacity of the mind to hold things that you do not put into your verbal memory," said Petrides. "Interestingly, this capacity is not very large. If you can put the items into words, you can manage seven or eight, but if they're abstract visuals, it's more like four or five."

Though the study was conducted from a pure research perspective, some practical spin-offs can be expected, said Petrides. Their findings are relevant to the understanding of neurological problems like attention deficit disorder, and the study's methodology can be used to assist surgeons to map and avoid the area during surgical procedures.

Source: McGill University

Explore further: Scientists discover new clues to how weight loss is regulated

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nokia turnaround since handset unit sale continues

2 hours ago

Nokia appears to have turned around its fortunes after the sale of its ailing cellphone unit to Microsoft, reporting a third-quarter net profit of 747 million euros ($950 million), from a loss of 91 million euros a year earlier. ...

Yahoo CEO defends strategy in face of criticism

2 hours ago

Signaling her reign has reached a pivotal juncture, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is trying to convince restless shareholders that the long-struggling Internet company is heading in the right direction.

Recommended for you

Growing a blood vessel in a week

2 hours ago

The technology for creating new tissues from stem cells has taken a giant leap forward. Three tablespoons of blood are all that is needed to grow a brand new blood vessel in just seven days. This is shown ...

Testing time for stem cells

4 hours ago

DefiniGEN is one of the first commercial opportunities to arise from Cambridge's expertise in stem cell research. Here, we look at some of the fundamental research that enables it to supply liver and pancreatic ...

Team finds key signaling pathway in cause of preeclampsia

Oct 23, 2014

A team of researchers led by a Wayne State University School of Medicine associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology has published findings that provide novel insight into the cause of preeclampsia, the leading cause ...

Rapid test to diagnose severe sepsis

Oct 23, 2014

A new test, developed by University of British Columbia researchers, could help physicians predict within an hour if a patient will develop severe sepsis so they can begin treatment immediately.

User comments : 0