What’s in a brain? That which we call a voxel by any other name would sound far less confusing.
Imagine all of the atoms in your brain. Now imagine how these atoms might behave inside of a giant magnet. Fortunately, there’s a technique that makes this thought experiment possible. Structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses the behavior of basic building blocks—like atoms and their protons within—to form a truly interdisciplinary technique that spans physics, biology, and computer science in order to “photograph” the brain.
“The mind loves the unknown. It loves images whose meaning is unknown, since the meaning of the mind itself is unknown.” – René Magritte
Magritte’s comments on our fascination with the unknown rings true not just in artistic surrealism, but also in many of our scientific research endeavors. The human mind is continually fascinated with what it has yet to understand, and curiously enough, the human mind itself is one such mystery. However, recent efforts focused on imaging and analyzing the entire brain, performed by both scientists and artists alike, have helped shed some light on this mystery. With this new technology, however, comes the question of how neuroimaging can influence the perspectives of a sentient being. What does it mean to see a reflection of our own cognition, both for our understanding of science and for our perception of humanity and living creatures?
The first human magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan was acquired almost 40 years ago. The scanner — hand-built by Dr. Raymond Damadian with the help of his two postdoctoral fellows — took nearly five hours to produce one snapshot of the human chest, and Dr. Damadian was eventually awarded the National Medal of Technology for his accomplishment.
Cute things are usually vulnerable, fragile and weak. But cuteness itself is mighty indeed. Morten L. Kringelbach and his colleagues at the University of Oxford recently described cuteness as ‘one of the most basic and powerful forces shaping our behavior.’ And yet, despite its elemental importance, cuteness might be a fluid, evolving concept and trait.Continue reading
If you grew up with siblings, it is likely that you have heard the phrase, ”Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” However, it wasn’t until a groundbreaking finding in the 1990s that the neural correlate to imitation was discovered in a class of neurons called mirror neurons. Continue reading
This weekend, I attended a special event at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, CA to celebrate the Juno spacecraft’s July 4th arrival at the planet Jupiter. Planetary scientists study outer space, while neuroscientists such as myself study inner space. But as my visit to JPL revealed, the goals and challenges of each discipline are far more similar than you might think. So, what is Juno, and how does its mission mirror that of many neuroscientists?Continue reading
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” – William Blake
The friendly headlamps and grill of a car. A sly electrical outlet. The full moon gazing back at you. A strangely anthropomorphic cloud. A house with personality.Continue reading
First impressions are pivotal. While reading another person’s cues, an abridged version of them forms as we draw on complex social inferences in merely seconds of interaction. That is, if they are human. What if they only resemble a human, but are incapable of inner experience or independent thought? Is it possible to truly form an emotional connection with a robot?Continue reading
Pictures are powerful tools for illustrating quantitative data and capturing public interest. Each year, NASA releases many beautiful images of Martian dunes and distant nebulae which help win public funding. Likewise, when it comes to grabbing headlines and commanding public attention, noninvasive studies of functional brain activity often do best when they beautifully illustrate said activity as colorful pixels dancing on the convoluted surface of the cerebral cortex.Continue reading
Every year, 1.5 million Americans sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBI), which occur when sudden traumas damage the brain. TBI commonly occurs when the head suddenly and violently hits an object, as in a car accident or during a football tackle. Over 75% of TBI cases are considered mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI), which include concussions. This name is deceiving, however, since almost half of these MTBI cases actually results in major neurologic and psychological problems.Continue reading