`Brain wiring key to decision making`

Melbourne: Unable to make quick decisions
when they are actually needed? Then blame your brain.
Scientists say the ability to act fast depends on whether
your brain wirings are the neural equivalent of broadband or
dial-up Internet connection.

Scientists say the ability to act fast depends on whether
your brain wirings are the neural equivalent of broadband or
dial-up Internet connection.

An international team which examined the brain mechanisms
underpinning decision-making flexibility found that structural
features of the brain affect a person`s ability to take fast

Quick decisions tend to be error-prone while relative
slower contemplation tends to produce more accuracy, said
Scott Brown of the University of Newcastle`s Cognition

This trade-off between speed and accuracy means people
need to be able to switch between the fast risky and slower
cautious modes of decision-making, as required.

But, little is known about the neurology underpinning
this flexibility, said Brown, who led the research.

In their study, Brown and researchers from the UK,
Germany and The Netherlands, found that decision-making
flexibility is determined by the "purely physical measurement"
of the thickness of the connections between the brain`s cortex
and the striatum of the basal ganglia.

According to Brown, the results are the equivalent of
brain communication being reliant on a broadband connection or
still using dial-up.

"The underlying finding that a purely physical
measurement could predict behaviour is very surprising," he
was quoted as saying by the Discovery News.

Though his team could not determine what causes one
person`s connections to be thicker than another`s, Brown said
it could be the "use it or lose it" phenomena.

In the research paper, appeared in the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences, Brown said they found that the
fast decision making ability thins as people age.
"As you get older the bandwidth gets slower and slower,"
he said.

For the study, the researchers placed participants in an
MRI scanner and measured the thickness of "fibbers" that carry
inputs from the cortex to the basal ganglia.
These measurements were done when the participants were
not making decisions. They were also required to undertake a
series of tasks that required them to make decisions either
quickly or slowly.

It was found that those with the stronger connections in
the brain were more able to move flexibly between a fast
response and a more accurate slow response.
Although the study was based on only nine participants,
the researchers used a previous independent study, which had
included MRI scans, to verify their findings and said their
work could help in tracking cognitive decline in ageing.

Brown said: "People who have a disease of ageing often
have their symptoms exacerbated by the slowing that comes with

"If you can understand the slowing we might be able to
separate the effects and better understand what is happening."
There is a view that older people are slow and cautious
because they choose to be so, but the findings showed that as
brain connections thin, the person is "stuck in a regime where
response is always slow and cautious," the researchers said.

Bureau Report

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