Friday, July 15, 2016

"Inception"- a real thing!


Remember the movie, "Inception" starring Leonardo DiCaprio??? Loved it.. right? :D
OK. Let me recall it for you.. Leo's character interferes with other's dreams to implant new ideas in their minds. It was a trippy plot premise. But, not entirely a Sci-Fi!!!

So, now what if I say we could do 'inception' without the subject being aware of what is being learned... "Yes, it is possible in reality now", the scientists say.

The basic idea is this: "Human subjects lie down in a functional Magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI machine, and play a 'game'. During the game, they have their brains scanned, and the game gives them feedback. Afterwards, they have developed new brain connections.

The process is called Neurofeedback, which uses the data from the fMRI machine to tell what's really going on in their brains. It's similar to using your heart rate to set your pace while running (which changes your heart rate), but instead you are controlling your own brain activity.

Power of the mind
We know that a person can regulate his heart rate and temperature just by thinking about it. But can we regulate other aspects of brain activity too?

The technique uses brain scanning with an fMRI machine to teach a skill or association- but without the person being aware of what they are learning.
Fairly innocuous, then, but the idea is somewhat spooky- a kind of subliminal messaging in its simplest form.

How's it done?
The brains of subjects are scanned, scientist tells them to look at the centre of the screen, which shows black vertical stripes. The subjects "try to somehow regulate their brain activity". This experiment is performed again the day after, and the results- subjects learned to see the color red while looking at a picture of black and white stripes, without even being aware of that.
The goal was to strengthen the connections in subjects' brains between seeing vertical stripes and seeing the color red.

A treatment for Autism?
Yes! Neurofeedback could eventually be used to treat neurological and psychiatric disorders such as Depression or Autism.
In the case of depression, people would get high scores when their brain activity looked less depressed.
For autism, the therapy is to enhance the "normal" connections and weaken the autism-related connections in their brain. (practically, instructing this to someone would be more confusing, though... it's a little  tricky!)

That's all!
- Jaskunwar Singh

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