Brain does not process sensory information sufficiently in bad learners
A research team from Berlin, Bochum and Leipzig has now provided an explanation as to why some people learn less well than others. The principle difficulties lie in insufficient processing of the information to be learned at the decisive positions of the brain. The current article on the matter by the research teams operating at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the RUB – Ruhr Universität Bochum, the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and the the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig has been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.
During their study work, the scientists trained the sense of touch in 26 students by electrically stimulating the skin on their hands repeatedly for 30 minutes. Before and after the stimulation, they tested the so-called two-point discrimination threshold, a unit of measurement for the sensibility of the sense of touch. The scientists impinged a slight pressure on the hand by means of two needles, and then measured the smallest distance between the needles where the probands were able to distinguish between these two as separate stimulants. On average, the passive training improved the discrimination threshold by some twelve percent.
The Berlin and Leipzig collaboration partners then continued to record the spontaneous EEG of the participantsbefore and during the passive training. Then, they identified those components of brain activity, which appeared connected by an improvement during the discriminations test. Of decisive importance were the alpha waves, being brain activity in the frequency range between 8 and 12 Hertz. The test results showed, that the higher the alpha activity before the passive training, the better the probands displayed learning skills. Apart from this, they also tended to learn more easily, the more the alpha activity declined during the passive training. These effects were noticed to appear via the somatosensory cortex, being the place where the sense of touch is located.
“It would now be an exciting question as to how far the ‘alpha’ activity could be deliberately influenced”, remarked Dr. Hubert Dinse from the Neural Plasticity Lab of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. ‘That could have enormous implications on therapies after brain damage, or quite generally for the understanding of learn processes’.
“As to how the alpha rhythm is able to exercise an influence on the learning capacity, is being currently examined with computer models”, explained Dr. Petra Ritter, Head of the Working Group BrainModes at the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and at the MPI Leipzig. “Only when we begin to understand the complex processing of information in the brain, will we be able to intervene in the processes in a targeted manner, in order to alleviate cases of disruptions”, added Dr. Petra Ritter. To develop new therapy approaches in this manner is the declared aim of the collaboration network, which Dr. Ritter coordinates, the international ‘Virtual Brain’ Project, which her team collaborates on, and the ‘Neural Plasticity Lab’ headed by Dr. Dinse at the RUB.
Privatdozentin Dr. Petra Ritter
Klinik für Neurologie
Campus Charité Mitte
t: +49 30 450 560 005
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