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Neural Interactions Aid Observational Learning

There are many ways that a person can learn. Many believe that learning by experience is the best way to learn. Observing other people’s experiences may actually be an even more effective way to learn. This type of learning is known as observational learning. Recently, researchers at MIT discovered the brain circuit that is responsible for allowing you to learn through observations.

How Observational Learning Works

Everything you learn on a day-to-day basis is through observation. This is because learning through experience isn’t always possible. For example, learning what not to eat because it’s poisonous and will kill you is not something you can learn through experience, but only through observation.

The brain circuit responsible for observational learning is different from the network that’s used to learn from firsthand experiences. The observational learning circuit of the brain actually relies on information from a part of the brain that’s responsible for interpreting social cues.

This circuit was discovered as a result of brain scanning studies. Previous studies identified two parts of the brain known as the ACC (Anterior Cingulate Cortex) and the BLA (Basolateral Amygdala) that became active when an individual was watching someone else. It’s the ACC that helps to interpret social cues, while the BLA helps the individual process emotions.

The way they work together to create observational learning was discovered through studies performed using mice. The reaction of mice watching other mice receive shocks in response to certain cues was recorded. The mice that did not receive the shock would still develop fear when confronted with that same cue later on.

Essentially, researchers found that the ACC becomes more active when you experience something happening to someone else. The information gathered by the ACC is sent to the BLA, which then forms an association between the cue and what happened.

Observational learning is one of the main ways that we learn, and researchers recently figured out what makes observational learning possible within our brains. For all the latest scientific news and updates, be sure to visit us at The Benefits Store today.


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