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Brain-Imaging Study Reveals Source of 'Oops' Response

Rostral anterior cingulate cortex lights up when people make mistakes that cost them money

FRIDAY, April 14 (HealthDay News) -- The rostral anterior cingulate cortex (rACC), an area of the brain thought to be involved in emotional response, is responsible for processing the "oops" reaction that occurs when people make costly errors, according to a study published in the April issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

Stephan Taylor, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan 12 healthy volunteers as they responded to a series of 360 visual-based tests. Each subject started with $10 in "credit." Correct answers to some tests resulted in a financial reward while incorrect answers to other tests resulted in a financial penalty. Some tests carried neither a reward nor a penalty.

The researchers found that rACC activity was higher when subjects made errors that cost them money than it was when they made mistakes that carried no penalty or even when they correctly answered tests that carried a reward.

"Emotional responses to poor performance may also contribute to the anatomic variability of error-related processing in the medial frontal cortex, although other explanations also need to be considered," the authors conclude. "However, the anatomic pattern of these blood oxygenation level-dependent changes may hold important keys for disorders of emotion, such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder."

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