April 13, 2011
Magnetic Resonance Imaging Helps Brain Training

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging can help you train your brain to introspect more intensely.

As humans face increasing distractions in their personal and professional lives, University of British Columbia researchers have discovered that people can gain greater control over their thoughts with real-time brain feedback.

The study is the world's first investigation of how real-time functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) feedback from the brain region responsible for higher-order thoughts, including introspection, affects our ability to control these thoughts. The researchers find that real-time brain feedback significantly improves people's ability to control their thoughts and effectively 'train their brains.'

This result would be a lot more interesting if MR scanners did not cost $1 million to $3 million. Superconducting cools supercooled make for an expensive machine. What's a cheaper way to do this? What are the prospects for room temperature superconductors?

Train your brain to make your rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC) think more higher-order thoughts. Any way to do this without an fMRI machine?

For the study, published the current issue of NeuroImage journal, participants performed tasks that either raised or lowered mental introspection in 30-second intervals over four six-minute sessions. fMRI technology tracked real-time activity in the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC), the region of the brain involved with higher-order thoughts.

Participants with access to real-time fMRI feedback could see their RLPFC activity increase during introspection and decrease during non-introspective thoughts, such as mental tasks that focused on body sensations. These participants used the feedback to guide their thoughts, which significantly improved their ability to control their thoughts and successfully perform the mental tasks. In contrast, participants given inaccurate or no brain feedback did not achieve any improvement in brain regulation.

What would also be helpful: A graphical display above one's desk that shows how much people coming in to ask questions are cutting into mental output. Recent mental productivity should be shown going back and hour or so with a live feed. Then a pair of bars on a bar graph could show how much mental work one has done so far and how much one could have done without interrupts.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 April 13 08:51 PM  Brain Enhancement

Nick G said at April 14, 2011 9:50 AM:

This result would be a lot more interesting if MR scanners did not cost $1 million to $3 million.

The impact of this kind of overhead is greatly exaggerated by healthcare providers.

Let's say we use a $2M machine for only 5 years: that's 43,800 hours. If we add 20% for interest, we're still only looking at costs of $55 per hour. If we only use it at 50% utilization, that's still only $110 per hour.

MRI exams typically take much less than an hour, so the cost of paying for the equipment should only add perhaps $50 to the cost of an MRI exam. Direct labor for 2 radiology techs is perhaps another $25.

So, why do MRI's cost thousands of dollars? Actually, they don't - the price may be $5k, but insurers are likely to pay 10% of that, and the test is enormously profitable at that level of reimbursement.

netsailer said at April 15, 2011 5:49 AM:

a cheaper way -- one that is readily available -- is to use computerized biofeedback. One pastes sensors to several parts of the head (no shaving required) and the computer can read various waves, which can be displayed in real time on a monitor. Quite cool. I remember as a graduate student (in the 70s) in San Francisco, playing around in the lab of an eminent psychologist, where the trick was to turn lightbulbs on and off with your thoughts. The approach has become quite sophisticated. The idea is that you can entrain the brain to function more effectively. Also can increase cortical blood flow.

Post a comment
Name (not anon or anonymous):
Email Address:
Remember info?

Go Read More Posts On FuturePundit
Site Traffic Info
The contents of this site are copyright