The Neural Network that Underlies Flexible Memory and Learning

A study identifies the neural network that supports flexible memory and learning

People are often forced to adapt to sudden and unexpected events. For example, they may have to deal with a road closure or accident, or an ATM or automatic payment machine that has broken down. In order to deal with such events effectively, people must have what is called behavioral flexibility. This means that they can deviate away from their routines and established behavioral patterns.

Humans need to be able to retrieve and encode reward-related memories to adapt their behavior to unexpected events. They can then use these memories to guide their current or future decisions. This involves the integration of cognitive abilities supported by different brain regions.

In past studies, it was found that people with neuropsychiatric disorders or addictions tend to be less flexible in their behavior. It can negatively affect their quality of life, because it is difficult to deal with the daily uncertainty.