What happens in the head when a person studies

Scientists from the International Centre for Research in Human Development are investigating what processes occur in the human brain as a person studies. They want to find out why, after some training, the brain starts to work better and to compare its activity during various mathematical exercises.

The study is based on the theory of human brain connectivity - the interaction of regions in the processing of information. This theory studies not just the behavior of individual areas of the brain, but how the body works as a whole.

- There is a provision in which the regions of the brain exchange information with each other if their neurons oscillate at the same frequency. Using electroencephalography, we can measure the oscillations of groups of neurons from different parts of the brain, - explains Nikita Yakovlev, one of the researchers, a Master’s student at the Faculty of Psychology.

32 people are taking part in the experiment. Over five days, they solve mathematical problems of multiplication and subtraction. Scientists record the brain activity of the subjects using an electroencephalograph on the first and fifth day, when they do the tasks for the first time and then after the training.

- Based on the changes in electrical activity in the human brain, we can determine which brain processes accompany one or another activity,- says Mikhail Zaleshin, a project manager and a junior researcher at the TSU Laboratory for Cognitive Investigations and Behavioral Genetics. - How does the joint work of brain regions change, and does it change at all? Why does a person start to solve the problems faster and better over five days? What provides this more successful work? We have to answer these questions.

Researchers also want to compare what processes occur when people multiply and subtract. When subtracting, they note, a person performs calculations using only specific values of numbers, and when multiplying recalls the multiplication table, and here memory is included. Scientists plan to find out how these processes differ in terms of brain function.

- Studies showing that a certain department of the brain is responsible for specific human actions appeared after the Second World War when there were many people with injuries. But today it is known that a specific area is not responsible for an action, but several. They exchange information among themselves, and this connection is still poorly understood, - says Mikhail Zaleshin.

The data collected is analyzed using graph theory. It takes 16 hours to process the results obtained from one experimental subject, so scientists plan to use the supercomputer SKIF Cyberia.

The results of this work will be useful for further studies of brain function. According to the authors of the project, today humankind still knows very little about how the brain provides daily human activities.

TSU scientists conducted the experiment with colleagues from the Middlesex University, Goldsmiths, University of London, University College London, and King's College London (Great Britain).