In Dr. Norman Doidge’s book The Brain that Changes Itself, Doidge explains what happens in a normal brain when we make a mistake or have reason to feel anxiety over something:
“Normally, when we make a mistake, three things happen. First, we get a ‘mistake feeling,’ that nagging sense that something is wrong. Second, we become anxious, and that anxiety drives us to correct the mistake. Third, when we have corrected the mistake, an automatic gearshift in our brain allows us to move on to the next thought or activity. Then both the ‘mistake feeling’ and the anxiety disappear.”
In neurological terms, the first level Doidge describes, where we detect mistakes, occurs with the part of our brain known as the orbital frontal cortex. The second level, where we become anxious because of the mistake, occurs in the part of our brain known as the cingulate gyrus, located deep inside the cortex. The third level, which allows the brain to shift gears and move on after the mistake has been corrected, occurs in the part of the brain known as the caudate nucleus.
In a follow-up post we will compare this normal process to the brain of someone who suffers from OCD.