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  Brain scans, tumors, tantrums, truth and intelligence testing. God Module II.
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   Author  Topic: Brain scans, tumors, tantrums, truth and intelligence testing. God Module II.  (Read 4159 times)
Hermit
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Brain scans, tumors, tantrums, truth and intelligence testing. God Module II.
« on: 2003-07-13 19:02:55 »
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Head Shots

Imaging technology shows what happens when liars lie and patients feel sad
Source: Newsweek International
Authors: Carl Zimmer
Dated: 2003-06-30
Refer also: "FAQ: The God Module"

It started as an odd feeling of deja vu. Over a few weeks, the sensation grew more and more intense, until finally John (not his real name) had trouble concentrating on teaching his grade-school class. Then he started having seizures.

His Doctors traced the trouble to a tumor in his brain’s left frontal lobe. The best option, they thought, was to remove the tumor surgically, and then—just to make sure there were no stray cancer cells—cut away some of the surrounding tissue. The question, though, was how much tissue could they safely remove? No two brains are organized identically—losing one slice of the brain might have no effect on one patient but paralyze the next. Probing John’s brain with electrodes might have offered some crude clues, but it would have entailed removing the top of his skull.

The dilemma came to the attention of Joy Hirsch. She’s the director of a new brain-imaging laboratory affiliated with Columbia University in New York that is trying to take brain imaging to a new level. She had John put his head in an MRI scanner and run through a series of exercises. He looked at pictures and thought of names. He looked at words and thought of synonyms. He wiggled his fingers. As each task demanded work from his brain, the scanner registered a slight increase in the flow of blood to the active tissue. Hirsch’s software crunched through the data and produced exquisitely detailed, rainbow-colored pictures of Smith’s brain, which Hirsch spread out on a table. The pictures capture Smith’s brain in mid thought. They show to within a cubic millimeter—about the size of a peppercorn—where these active regions of the brain are in relation to the tumor. “This is a nice case, as clear as it can be,” she says, and marks a rainbow blob with a Post-it note. “They can operate without risk.”

The technique of functional neuroimaging has revealed a great deal in recent years about the human brain in general, but little about what patients like John really care about: their own gray matter. Hirsch and her colleagues are pushing to capture the brain’s —activity the instant a thought occurs, and in enough detail to be able to see the tiniest of structures. Their work is only now beginning to save surgical patients from paralysis and blindness, but there’s more to come. Like computers in the 1960s, brain scanners these days are big, bulky and expensive—and not really all that powerful. What Hirsch and her colleagues would like to see is the brain-scanning equivalent of the Apple II personal computer. In 10 years brain scans may be a common diagnostic tool. Psychiatrists may use them to analyze mental illnesses and identify potential criminals. Police may use them to determine if a suspect is lying.

Brain scientists have come a long way since the early-19th century, when they had to wait until patients died so they could dissect their heads. French physician Pierre Broca used this method on brain- injured people who had lost the ability to speak; they all suffered damage, he discovered, to a patch of tissue along the left side, known now as Broca’s area. A century later, scientists began injecting living patients with radioactive chemicals that flagged active portions of the brain—a technique called positron emission tomography, or PET. Because the chemicals took 20 minutes or so to make their way up through arteries in the neck to the brain, PET could only give scientists a blurry picture. “It was awful,” says Hirsch, “but it was all there was.”

Magnetic resonance imaging, invented at about the same time as PET, was potentially a whole lot faster, largely because it uses a different kind of physics. In MRI, a powerful magnetic field makes some of the atoms in the brain line up like little compass needles. When you wobble the magnetic field slightly, the atoms wobble, too, giving off signals, which can reveal detailed pictures of the —brain’s rough anatomy. But anatomy isn’t the same thing as capturing thought in action. When Bell Labs engineer Seiji Ogawa discovered in 1992 that MRI could be tuned to pick up the firing of neurons—the basic mechanism of thinking—Hirsch appreciated the significance. “I thought, ‘My God, that’s going to change the course of neuroimaging forever’,” she says. MRI could now pinpoint the parts of the brain that became active for any given kind of thought, and it could do so relatively quickly, without any radioactive injections. The technology, though, was still not fast enough, and it was crude—which is why scientists needed to average their results over many different brain images.

To catch an individual’s brain in mid thought, Hirsch invented statistical tools that let her pick out the busy neurons and ignore the brain’s ordinary background noise. Then she incorporated these techniques into software that interprets the MRI data. Working with neurosurgeons at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in the mid-1990s, she began to map the brains of surgical patients who had been told their tumors were inoperable. At Columbia, Hirsch has even more powerful equipment that is helping her push MRI technology further. She’s using a roomful of supercomputers (“It’s never enough,” she says with a smile) to uncover heretofore hidden links between different brain regions. She’s also combining MRI scans, which tell you where brain activity is taking place, with data taken from electrodes placed on the patient’s scalp, which can discern brain events as brief as a thousandth of a second.

One of Hirsch’s immediate goals is to help surgeons with more ambitious brain operations. Epilepsy, for example, is often caused by a tiny clump of misbehaving neurons, which are currently impossible to track without opening up a patient’s skull. Hirsch, though, recently succeeded in watching the birth of a seizure with her scanner. “Knowing where seizures start is key information,” she says. If surgeons could pinpoint rogue neurons, they might be able to destroy them while sparing the surrounding brain.

A bigger ambition is, as she puts it, to uncover “those qualities that actually make us human.” Each action or thought—from speaking to feeling in love or adding numbers—brings into play a distinct constellation of brain regions. These networks, scientists have found, are pretty much the same from one person to another, but observing them requires analyzing individual patients as they perform for scientists. By scanning people while they speak, Hirsch has mapped the brain network that generates language. One of the nodes, not surprisingly, is located in Broca’s area. When Hirsch scanned people speaking a second language, she found that they use an identical network—except for one crucial node in Broca’s area that shifts a few millimeters away. “Somehow the network is switching back and forth between those areas when calling upon those language skills,” she says.

Understanding these networks promises to put psychiatry on a new footing. Depression, for example, may come from a defect somewhere in the network that attaches emotional values to specific experiences. If scientists can zero in on the damaged nodes, they may be able to help find more effective medications. “We don’t have a well-thought-out rhyme or reason for why we use a drug for particular conditions,” says Hirsch. “Doctors and patients have to go through a long trial-and-error process before they find a drug that works for them.” Scanning people’s brains may make the process less random.

If Hirsch and others can make neuroimaging simultaneously more powerful and less expensive, it stands to become a bigger part of our lives. Antonio Damasio, head of neurology at University of Iowa Medical School and a World Economic Forum fellow, thinks it might lead to neural prostheses that compensate for damage to the brain. A patient with an injury to the motor centers of the brain, for instance, may get an implant that directs the movement in his muscles and limbs. “It sounds a little bit like science fiction,” he says, “but it’s going to come to pass fairly rapidly.” Neuroscientists are also pinpointing brain regions that are most active in those who score highly on intelligence tests.

Will we judge the prospects of our children some day with a brain scan instead of the SATs? Should we peer into the brains of fetuses in the womb? Will criminal witnesses be given brain scans to determine if their testimony is truthful? This is not cyberpunk fantasy. Hirsch’s own group has figured out how to spot a lying brain. “Lying is just the same as telling the truth, except it’s harder,” she says. In certain regions of a lying brain, neurons fire more than in the brain of a truth teller. The pattern is so obvious on Hirsch’s pictures that even an untrained eye can see it.

Defense lawyers may find brain scans just as attractive as prosecutors. It is one thing to say that your client can’t be held responsible for his actions; it’s another to point to a brain scan that shows a defect in the way he controls his emotions. Hirsch can’t say whether this will come to pass. “But in science, could we reliably predict people that were at risk for aggressive behavior? Yes, I believe so,” she says. “If we have to make decisions about therapy, that would be information that might guide us. I think of this more in terms of taking preventative action.” Neuroimaging might keep people out of jail by helping them before they even commit a crime.

Hirsch knows she’s moving into dangerous waters here. “It is an omen of the future,” she says. “We are going to think of our qualities as humans—our social being, our inner selves—more in terms of our physiology.” It will then be up to us, not the neuroscientists, to figure out what those pretty pictures mean for our souls.
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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Re:Brain scans, tumors, tantrums, truth and intelligence testing. God Module II.
« Reply #1 on: 2006-06-27 01:38:12 »
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Interesting Projects and related articles:

Open-rTMS Project

The OpenEEG project
    The OpenEEG project is about making plans and software for do-it-yourself EEG devices available for free (as in GPL). It is aimed toward amateurs who would like to experiment with EEG.


SBaGen -- Binaural Beat Brain Wave Experimenter's Lab
    The theory behind binaural beats is that if you apply slightly different frequency sine waves to each ear, a beating affect is created in the brain itself, due to the brain's internal wiring. If, in the presence of these tones, you relax and let your mind go, your mind will naturally synchronize with the beat frequency. In this way it is possible to tune the frequency of your brain waves to particular frequencies that you have selected, using of the four bands: Delta: deep sleep, Theta: dreaming and intuitive stuff, Alpha: awake, focused inside, and Beta: awake, focused outside.

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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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Re:Brain scans, tumors, tantrums, truth and intelligence testing. God Module II.
« Reply #2 on: 2007-10-09 12:53:30 »
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[Blunderov] Neuroscience continues to cut a swathe through everything we thought we knew.


http://www.boingboing.net/2007/10/08/neuroscience-and-god.html

Neuroscience and God
Posted by David Pescovitz, October 8, 2007 12:28 PM | permalink
The current issue of Scientific America Mind looks at how neuroscientists are using brain scans to study the biology of spiritual experiences. The fMRI images seen here are from a study by University of Montreal researcher Mario Beauregard and his colleagues. The scientists scanned the brains of nuns as they recalled religious epiphanies to see which areas of the brain lit up. From Scientific American Mind:
Such efforts to reveal the neural correlates of the divine—a new discipline with the warring titles “neurotheology” and “spiritual neuroscience”—not only might reconcile religion and science but also might help point to ways of eliciting pleasurable otherworldly feelings in people who do not have them or who cannot summon them at will. Because of the positive effect of such experiences on those who have them, some researchers speculate that the ability to induce them artificially could transform people’s lives by making them happier, healthier and better able to concentrate. Ultimately, however, neuroscientists study this question because they want to better understand the neural basis of a phenomenon that plays a central role in the lives of so many. “These experiences have existed since the dawn of humanity. They have been reported across all cultures,” Beauregard says. “It is as important to study the neural basis of [religious] experience as it is to investigate the neural basis of emotion, memory or language.”

Scientists and scholars have long speculated that religious feeling can be tied to a specific place in the brain. In 1892 textbooks on mental illness noted a link between “religious emotionalism” and epilepsy. Nearly a century later, in 1975, neurologist Norman Geschwind of the Boston Veterans Administration Hospital first clinically described a form of epilepsy in which seizures originate as electrical misfirings within the temporal lobes, large sections of the brain that sit over the ears. Epileptics who have this form of the disorder often report intense religious experiences, leading Geschwind and others, such as neuropsychiatrist David Bear of Vanderbilt University, to speculate that localized electrical storms in the brain’s temporal lobe might sometimes underlie an obsession with religious or moral issues.
Link (Thanks, Jason Tester!)

Previously on BB:
• Scanning nun brains for god spots Link
• Business of brain scans Link



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Walter Watts
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Re:Brain scans, tumors, tantrums, truth and intelligence testing. God Module II.
« Reply #3 on: 2007-10-10 18:52:21 »
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Quote from: Blunderov on 2007-10-09 12:53:30   
[Blunderov] Neuroscience continues to cut a swathe through everything we thought we knew.

<snip>
Such efforts to reveal the neural correlates of the divine—a new discipline with the warring titles “neurotheology” and “spiritual neuroscience”—not only might reconcile religion and science but also might help point to ways of eliciting pleasurable otherworldly feelings in people who do not have them or who cannot summon them at will.
<snip>



Hmm. Neurotheology. Interesting.

I'll keep that book (when it comes out) right next to my
"Paleotheology" textbook. You know. The one with this cover:



Ack! Nevermind. I'll just stick with the conventional neurosciences.

If I want to elicit "otherworldly" feelings in my brain, I'll just read some of
Salamantis's posts.

Best to you Blunderov,
Walter

PS--BTW. That Scientific American Mind series IS truly superb isn't it?
« Last Edit: 2007-10-10 18:55:16 by Walter Watts » Report to moderator   Logged

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Blunderov
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Re:Brain scans, tumors, tantrums, truth and intelligence testing. God Module II.
« Reply #4 on: 2007-10-11 04:44:20 »
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Quote from: Walter Watts on 2007-10-10 18:52:21   


Quote from: Blunderov on 2007-10-09 12:53:30   
Hmm. Neurotheology. Interesting.

I'll keep that book (when it comes out) right next to my
"Paleotheology" textbook. You know. The one with this cover:

http://www.mysciencebox.org/files/images/ark.gif *

Ack! Nevermind. I'll just stick with the conventional neurosciences.

If I want to elicit "otherworldly" feelings in my brain, I'll just read some of
Salamantis's posts.

Best to you Blunderov,
Walter

PS--BTW. That Scientific American Mind series IS truly superb isn't it?

[Blunderov] *Marvelous cartoon And yes I agree the SA Mind series was most interesting. TMM it somewhat undermines claims for the existence of "the divine"; until now there has been no real objective explanation for the universality of religious experience. The nuns, of course, take the opposite view.

However the results will not be conclusive until similar data is gathered from persons who contemplate the only true divinity. I refer of course to The Incomparable, that Non Pareil of All Divinity, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. When it comes to mystical experiences the FSM is very hard to beat: "When the light rested upon me, I saw two meatballs, whose succulence and aroma defy all description resting in a wiggling jumble of noodles in the air above me."

An artist's impression.

http://blog.crispen.org/archives/2005/10/01/the-vision/


Forsooth, amen and all that.

Best Regards.
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