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Stanford researchers uncover how the brain decides what to learn

Image of the brain's paraventricular thalamus
Oct 26 2018

Neuroscientists know a lot about how our brains learn new things, but not much about how they choose what to focus on while they learn. Now, researchers have traced that ability to an unexpected place. Assistant Professor Xiaoke Chen and colleagues report Oct. 26 in Science, that they think they’ve figured out how animals sort through the details of learning. A part of the brain called the paraventricular thalamus, or PVT, serves as a kind of gatekeeper, making sure that the brain identifies and tracks the most salient details of a situation. Although the research, funded in part by the Wu Tsai Neurosciences Institute’s Neurochoice Initiative, is confined to mice for now, the results could one day help researchers better understand how humans learn or even help treat drug addiction, said senior author Chen.