We all make mistakes—and when we do, it is a great opportunity for the brain to adjust what it is doing and to learn. To study how the brain detects and deals with errors, researchers have used caps equipped with sensors that can measure brain activity. One thing researchers have found using this method is that the brain creates a specific kind of brain activity when a person makes a mistake. This activity, called the error-related negativity or ERN, happens almost at the same time that the error is made. It is as if the brain already knows we are making a mistake within fractions of a second, before we are even aware of it. Where in the brain does this ERN come from? How does it help us learn? And how does it change as we develop from children to adults?
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