What keeps a Researcher up all Night?

An Oxford Don is up all night marvelling over the fact that brain and behaviour is a two way street...
23 January 2013

Interview with 

Matthew Rushworth, Oxford University


Matthew -   My name is Matthew Rushworth.  I work in Oxford University and I'm a Neuroscientist there. 

I suppose that one of the things that I think that most intrigues me most about the brain is the phenomenon that we see that's very prevalent in many different experiments. 

And that's the fact that the brain seem to change as a function of experience and this, I think, runs counter to the intuition that many non-neuroscientists have about what the brain does. 

We tend to think about the brain as a thing that causes behaviour that produces the way in which we act.  And if there's something different about our brain then that constrains the way in which we might behave in the future.  But for many neuroscientists, actually it's the opposite that's the case. 

As we gather different experiences, as we engage in different types of behaviour then we see that there are subtle changes that occur in the brain. 

So for example, if you were to practice juggling for a while,juggling we would see parts of the brain that are concerned with visual spatial coordination changing and appearing to increase in size. 

Or if you engage in some other chore then parts of the brain that are concerned with the cognitive processes needed to perform that chore would change in size. 

Even it seems if you spend more time engaged in social interaction then parts of the brain that are important for mediating that social interaction will begin to change and increase in size, and change the way in which they interact with other brain region. 

So, it isn't just the case that the brain drives the way in which we behave, but it's also really much more of a two-way street.  It's also the case that behaviour alters the way in which our brains are structured and alters the way in which they function.

Hannah -   That was Dr. Matthew Rushworth from Oxford University, presenting his fascination with the fact that the brain is a bit like a muscle and can be exercised, and affected by how we use it, and by what we surround ourselves by and what we do.

So, it's a case that behaviour changes the brain and the brain changes behaviour.


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