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Brain Patterns Predict Mistakes
Date:4/23/2008

Study shows changes in two regions right before an error is made

WEDNESDAY, April 23 (HealthDay News) -- Sometimes while performing repetitive tasks, people make mistakes.

Now new research has uncovered the existence of a pattern of activity across two regions of the brain that occur up to 30 seconds before some, but not all, errors are made.

The finding counters the popular view that human error is simply a function of instantaneous brain blips, while also suggesting that some mistakes are neurologically predictable. And in theory, the mapping of such brain sequences could ultimately lead to the development of brain-monitoring techniques intended to boost individual safety by warning of imminent mistakes.

"It's not that this pattern of brain activity always happens before an error," said study author Dr. Tom Eichele, of the department of biological and medical psychology at the University of Bergen, in Bergen, Norway. "But we did see that when you have this pattern, the likelihood of making an error is 50 percent greater than otherwise."

Eichele and his team reported the findings in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors set out to observe pre-error brain activity with the aid of functional MRIs. This scanning technology allows physicians to take snapshots of changes in brain blood flow that accompany any increase or decrease in activity throughout different regions of the brain.

Thirteen healthy men and women between the ages of 22 and 29 participated in the study.

All were asked to engage in a standard visual test known as the "flanker task." This visual exercise required the participants to quickly view repeated images of a central pointed arrow surrounded by peripheral arrows pointing either in the same director or in the opposite direction of the center arrow.

The participants had to repeatedly ident
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