I’m going to run this by my boss, I’m sure he’ll dig it.
I had my brain scanned as part of an experiment a while back. It was quite an amazing experience. I played a simple economics game while they aligned the spin of all the oxygen in my brain and shot magnetic waves into my brain to measure oxygen levels. Anyway that’s the explanation for a five year old. When I first saw the picture I was kind of shocked. I mean, the thing that thinks about what to type and upload onto a computer for millions of other brains to process, is right here in front of me in black and white….no more mysteries.
Fortunately there are no abnormalities or arteriovenal malformations or anything weird like that, but I did notice some interesting things about my brain that I will not be sharing with the masses. Let’s just say there is a lot variability in what a brain looks like from what is in the textbook.
George W Bush has made it clear that during his administration science should be producing tangible benefits for society. In simple terms, the culture has had to shift from a very basic science oriented approach inherited from the freewheeling 90′s to an applied focus now. Often what that means is that the same scientists who were on top of basic research for so many years have to give lip service to clinical studies and trials.
A good example came out right before halloween. Here is a hodge podge of quotes from neuroscientists who study fear in the brain.
The first comes from Stephen Maren of Michigan, who is a reputable and good scientist.
“We’re making a lot of progress,” said University of Michigan psychology professor Stephen Maren. “We’re taking all of what we learned from the basic studies of animals and bringing that into the clinical practices that help people. Things are starting to come together in a very important way.”
The translation is: “Please don’t cut my funding. Look this is all going to pan out clinically in a couple of years, we promise!”
That being said, some progress is being made in this field…so, uh, don’t cut NIH funding!
A nifty imaging study shows that the human brain processes fear faster than any other emotion.
The team found that subjects became aware of faces that had fearful expressions before neutral or happy faces. They believe a brain area called the amygdala, which shortcuts the normal brain pathway for processing visual images, is responsible.
“The amygdala receives information before it goes to the cortex, which is where most visual information goes first. We think the amygdala has some crude ability to process stimuli and that it can cue some other visual areas to what they need to focus on,” Zald said.
When I interviewed for graduate school, I met Dr. Zald. All I remember was he played a weird instrument, like a zither, which he displayed in his office. It seems he made a CD which he kept in his office, too.