In the 2015 paper, ‘Two spatiotemporally distinct value systems shape reward-based learning in the human brain’, research from Dr Elsa Fouragnan uncovered the dynamics of two separate but interacting value systems; these systems have a direct impact on how we learn. To understand how this happens Dr Elsa Fouragnan, Future Leader Fellow (UKRI - MRC), Lecturer in Neuroscience and Brain Stimulation Laboratory Lead at the Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC) combined simultaneously EEG and fMRI:
Imagine picking wild berries in a forest, when suddenly a swarm of bees flies out from behind a bush. In a split second, your motor system has already reacted to flee the swarm. This is the automatic response - acting before thinking - which helps you to avoid impending doom. At the same time a separate, more thought-out, process of learning happens to avoid reckless berry picking in the future.To understand how this happens Elsa Fouragnan working at the time in Oxford collaborated with the University of Glasgow to develop a new way to study brain activity.
This method involves using two pieces of equipment simultaneously: an EEG machine which records when brain activity took place and a functional MRI scan to reveal where it occurred.
To successfully record from both pieces of equipment at the same time, the team were able to remove the ‘noise’ introduced by the MR scanner on the EEG - a shortcoming that previously made this problematic.
The team hope that this pioneering technique will offer neurological insights into mental disorders associated with decision making such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In this fascinating animation Dr Elsa Fouragnan shares more about how we learn and insights from the brain