(June 25, 2015) Behavioral flexibility – the ability to change strategy when the rules change – is controlled by specific neurons in the brain, Researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have confirmed. Cholinergic interneurons are rare – they make up just one to two percent of the neurons in the striatum, a key part of the brain involved with higher-level decision-making. Scientists have suspected they play a role in changing strategies, and researchers at OIST recently confirmed this with experiments. Their findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.
“Not much is known about these neurons,” said Sho Aoki, a post-doctoral researcher at OIST and lead author of the paper. “But we now have clear evidence that they play a key role in remaining flexible in this ever-changing world.”