Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) scientists have documented the formation of a newly learned concept inside the brain and found that it occurs in the same brain areas for everyone. In other words, brain's "filing system" is same for everyone.
To prove this, leading neuroscientist Marcel Just pointed to the Smithsonian Institute's 2013 announcement about the olinguito, a newly identified carnivore species that mainly eats fruits and lives by itself in the treetops of rainforests. Millions of people read the information about the olinguito and in doing so permanently changed their own brains.
"When people learned that the olinguito eats mainly fruit instead of meat, a region of their left inferior frontal gyrus - as well as several other areas - in the brain stored the new information according to its own code," said Just, the D.O Hebb University professor of cognitive neuroscience at CMU.
The new knowledge gained from the Smithsonian's announcement became encoded in the same brain areas in every person that learned the new information because all brains appear to use the same filing system.
Another important finding was that once a property of an animal was learned, it remained intact in the brain, even after other properties of the animal had been learned. This finding indicates the relative neural durability of what we learn.
"Each time we learn something, we permanently change our brains in a systematic way," added Andrew Bauer, PhD student in psychology and the study's lead author. The study provides a foundation for brain researchers to trace how a new concept makes its way into the brain.
The results also indicate that it may be possible to use a similar approach to understand the "loss" of knowledge in various brain disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease or due to brain injuries.
The research appeared in the journal Human Brain Mapping