Synchronized brain waves enable rapid learning

MIT neuroscientists have found that as monkeys learn to categorize different patterns of dots, two brain areas involved in learning, the prefrontal cortex and the striatum, synchronize their brain waves to form new communication circuits. “We’re seeing direct evidence for the interactions between these two systems during learning, which hasn’t been seen before.”
“Category-learning results in new functional circuits between these two areas, and these functional circuits are rhythm-based, which is key because that’s a relatively new concept in systems neuroscience.” There are millions of neurons in the brain, each producing its own electrical signals. These combined signals generate oscillations known as brain waves, which can be measured by electroencephalography (EEG). The research team focused on EEG patterns from the prefrontal cortex, the seat of the brain’s executive control system, and the striatum, which controls habit formation.
The phenomenon of brain-wave synchronization likely precedes the changes in synapses, or connections between neurons, believed to underlie learning and long-term memory formation, Miller says. That process, known as synaptic plasticity, is too time-consuming to account for the human mind’s flexibility, he believes.