In the first study ever to link academic performance to a neural signal, participants performed a Stroop task – a well-known test of cognitive control – while hooked up to EEG electrodes that measured their brain activity.
U of T researchers monitored a brain signal known as the error-related negativity (ERN) in each participant's brain while they completed the task. ERN signals are observed approximately 100 milliseconds after a mistake is made, and are involved in cognitive control and self-regulation. Large ERN signals indicate a participant is responding strongly when they've made a mistake; smaller ERN signals indicate they are less responsive to their mistakes.
The researchers then compared the size of each participant's ERN signals to their official university transcript grades.
"Those students with larger ERN signals did significantly better in school, showing that these neural signals have important real world implications," says doctoral researcher Jacob Hirsh.
Did higher academic performers do better only because their brains could recognize more mistakes? Or did they also do better because their brains more loudly signaled a mistake? Could a lower performing person improve their performance by listening more carefully to their doubts?
I'd like to know how strongly the ERN signal's strength correlates with IQ. Does use of ERN signal in combination with IQ predict academic performance more accurately than using either of these measures alone? Not surprisingly, half the ERN signal's strength is down to your genes.
Because the size of the ERN is only 50 per cent determined by genetics, though, Hirsh says students may be able to improve their ERN signals by attending to their mistakes, thereby helping to improve their academic performance. "The ERN is not set in stone," he says.
It is not obvious to me that most people can become better at recognizing when they've made mistakes.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2009 September 08 11:44 PM Brain Performance|