Stanford scientists uncover how a fluctuating brain network may make us better thinkers

Stanford scientists uncover how a fluctuating brain network may make us better thinkers

by Taylor Kubota, Stanford News

Communication between different areas of our brain increases when we are faced with a difficult task. Understanding these fluctuating patterns could reveal why some people learn new tasks more quickly.

For the past 100 years, scientists have understood that different areas of the brain serve unique purposes. Only recently have they realized that the organization isn’t static. Rather than having strictly defined routes of communication between different areas, the level of coordination between different parts of the brain seems to ebb and flow.

Now, by analyzing the brains of a large number of people at rest or carrying out complex tasks, researchers at Stanford University have learned that the integration between those brain regions also fluctuates. When the brain is more integrated people do better on complex tasks. The research was published in Neuron.

“The brain is stunning in its complexity and I feel like, in a way, we’ve been able to describe some of its beauty in this story,” said study lead author Mac Shine, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Russell Poldrack, a professor of psychology “We’ve been able to say, ‘Here’s this underlying structure that you would never have guessed was there, that might help us explain the mystery of why the brain is organized in the way that it is.’”

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