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Brain Region May Act as 'Sixth' Sense

19 February, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Part of the brain may be able to sense danger and provide early warnings to help humans escape, according to a study that provides new evidence of the brain's "sixth sense."

In the study, researchers found that a region in the brain known as the anterior cingulated cortex (ACC) may monitor subtle changes in the environment -- even without people being aware of it -- and use this information to adjust behavior.

Previous studies have suggested that activity in the ACC, which is located in the front of the brain, increases when people have to make a difficult decision or after they make a mistake.

"But now we find that this brain region can actually learn to recognize when you might make a mistake, even before a difficult decision has to be made," says researcher Joshua Brown, PhD, a research associate in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis, in a news release. "So the ACC appears to act as an early warning system; it learns to warn us in advance when our behavior might lead to a negative outcome, so that we can be more careful and avoid making a mistake."

Researchers say the ACC has been studied intensely in recent years because it plays an important role in the brain's processing of complex and challenging tasks.

In this study, researchers looked at whether the role of the ACC goes beyond detecting errors or a state of conflict to detecting the likelihood of making an error. To test this theory, researchers conducted an experiment that required healthy young people to respond to a series of cues on a computer screen.

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