New Western University research shows that neurons in the part of the brain found to be abnormal in psychosis are also important in helping people distinguish between reality and imagination.
The researcher investigated how the brain codes visual information in reality versus abstract information. In working memory how those differences are distributed across neurons in the lateral prefrontal cortex region of the brain. That is what we call working memory representations or short-term memory representations they are abstract, they are imaginary and they don’t exist in reality, but in our minds. Real objects in our visual field, we call perceptual representations. We are trying to determine whether there are neurons in the brain. That can signal to a person whether a representation is real or imaginary.
Perform two tasks one where they had to report the direction of movement of a cloud of dots they could see on a computer screen. Other where they had to report the cloud direction a few seconds after it disappeared based on a memory of the image.They found that neurons in the Lateral Prefrontal Cortex encoded perceived and memorized information to various degrees and in different combinations of strength.
Moreover, the Lateral Prefrontal Cortex shown to be dysfunctional in individuals with schizophrenia, who have hallucinations or delusions. However, researchers have not been able to pinpoint the source of this dysfunction.
Specifying neurons using Machine learning
Using machine-learning, the researchers created a computer algorithm. That could read out the pattern of neurons firing in the Prefrontal Cortex. Reliably determine whether a subject was perceiving a cloud of dots or remembering one they had seen before. That by pinpointing the specific neurons responsible for distinguishing between reality and imagination. They might be better able to treat disorders like schizophrenia that cause patients to confuse what’s real and what isn’t.
Currently, pharmacological treatments for these disorders change the neurochemistry in the entire brain. often causing unintended side-effects. By targeting only the specific neurons responsible for these disturbances. They may be able to minimize these side-effects.