Emerging research and applications in neuroscience.
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2nd January 2007
(Paper presented by Christine Born at Radiological Society of N. America Annual Conference Dec. 2006)
Compared to (3 second exposure of logos of) less familiar brands, the brain processes highly familiar brands faster and requires less activation in areas of working memory while showing increased activation in areas associated with emotion and imitation-mirroring/self-identifying (the inferior frontal gyrus, anterior insula and the anterior cingulate ). Suggests that well known brands are ‘easier on the mind’ and that they trigger emotion that is enmeshed with mirroring of one’s self-identity.
11th October 2006
This is turning into a series of follow up postings to my Feb 2006 column that discussed Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation(TMA) as a brain science breakthrough. Non invasive and painless, TMA can temporarily inactivate an area of the human brain to let brain scientists study the effect.
TMS is currently only possible if a volunteer’s head is in close contact with the magnetic source but there is ultimately the possibility of mind control if it can be accomplished at a distance. The scary part is, that is what is now under active military investigation.
TMS, administered in close contact, can be used to prevent people from seeing a visual stimulus , make it hard for them to speak, or induce involuntary movements. Pulses directed to different spots on the motor cortex can make a thumb twitch, an arm jerk, or a leg kick . If TMS application at a distance becomes possible, it could potentially be used by the military to disable an enemy by controlling their mood, vision, or physical responses.
This latest research shows that in negotiations, suppressing the activity in people's right prefrontal cortex, induces them to accept unfair offers that they would otherwise reject. See "Selfish Impulse Set Free by Magnetic Pulse to Brain", Scientific American, 5th Oct, 2006. The research used TMS, still in close contact with volunteer's heads, so this in itself does not open up mind control. But with each new study uncovering more potential powers of TMS in close application, the prospect of technology that might make it work at a distance, gets very, very scary indeed.
17th Sept. 2006
Here is a follow up posting to my Feb 2006 column that discussed Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation - a brain science breakthrough. Non invasive and painless, it can temporarily inactivate an area of the human brain to let brain scientists study the effect.
Patients with semantic dementia can struggle with naming even simple things such as "car" or "fork", seemingly because of damage or loss of tissue in the temporal area of the brain. Researchers from University of Manchester recently used TMS on healthy subjects to experimentally weaken that same area for ten minutes. It produced similar but weaker effects. It slowed them down in naming pictures by about 10% . Read the BBC report here.
5th Feb. 2006
Military Use of TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation)
Currently only possible if a subject's head is in close contact with the magnetic source, TMS at a distance is now under active military investigation according to noted biology professor, Steven Rose writing in The Observer.
April 28, 2005
Brain Scans Help Scientists ‘Read Minds’
Imagine if you could tell what a person had been looking at by examining just their brain scan. No longer is this science fiction. This is science fact. Scientificamerican.com reports on two breakthrough studies that demonstrate that we can now do this (albeit at this stage with rudimentary images). What is pretty scary is that even if the person is unaware of being exposed to an image (because it is below their own awareness threshold), nevertheless it can still be detected in their brain scan. If confirmed, this will stoke a huge fire under society’s fear of neuromarketing and ‘subliminal’ influence. Additional note (13 June 2005)...more details are available at Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
Also, for more on neuromarketing generally, see technorati
March 19, 2005
UK Market Research Conference Warned About Neuromarketing Limitations
As reported by Research magazine, eminent brain scientist Baroness Susan Greenfield warned market researchers at the Research 2005 conference about the limitations of using brain scanning technology.
Another speaker David Penn (Conquest M.R.) said much of what has been learned with brain science "validates" what researchers already do when studying the consumer. Pointing to the ‘Pepsi challenge’ Baylor study, Penn said: "Brain science makes retrospective sense of our old intuitive practices."
February 07, 2005
No-Ban on Neuromarketing
The group, Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics (CCLE) has released its current position on Neuromarketing. It has done its homework, taking a realistic position on the power of the technique that states: "we presently believe that the hype around neuromarketing is much larger than it's actual power to steer consumer behavior."
CCLE does not advocate a ban on Neuromarketing but is considering options for more transparent use such as requiring disclosure on product packaging if neuromarketing has been used. It is also asks the question whether different rules should exist for neuromarketing applied to political use or for products marketed directly to children?
February 02, 2005
Electrode implants have shown promise in forming a brain–computer interface to enable people with disability to move a mouse cursor, to communicate and even control a prosthesis. The computer translates electrical brain signals into movements — of a cursor, a robotic arm or some other device. Nature Reviews Neuroscience reports another step forward with the demonstration by Wolpaw and McFarland that non-invasive electroencephalogram (EEG) signals can be used for complex control of a cursor on a screen. Eye tracking systems are another non-invasive approach. These can enable people with disability to lead a cursor with their eye gaze allowing them to read and write text, switch on and off lights or dial telephone numbers. This type of technology could make a big difference in the lives of people with disabilities such as Multiple Sclerosis or Cerebral Palsy.
November 23, 2004
fMRI Beyond the Clinic: Will It Ever Be Ready for Prime Time?
Published in PLos Biology 15 June 2004, this well written and easy to read article by freelance science writer Richard Robinson does a great job of explaining fMRI and helping readers understand its limitations and potential applications (e.g. as a hi-tech substitute for the polygraph?).
October 28, 2004
A piece by Kate Santich in the Orlando Sentinel October 27, 2004 is informative about the work on political neuromarketing by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles. They are using fMRI brain-imaging equipment to measure the responses of Republicans and Democrats as they view presidential campaign ads and speeches.
Pictures of the person's OWN candidate (George Bush for Republicans and John Kerry for Democrats) triggered activity in the person’s ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area with a strong feeling of connection that is said to be the part of the brain that kicks in when you smile back at someone or look at a beautiful sunset.
The opposing candidate activated another part of the brain, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (which is said to be responsible for asserting control over emotional reactions). The researchers comment that it was as if people were arguing against the candidate in their own heads, perhaps to bolster themselves against being swayed.
Separately, Paul Elias (Associated Press) points out that this project's stimulus came from the brother of one of the researchers who was a former consultant to President Bill Clinton. He wanted to know from his neuroscientist brother if the fMRI technology could improve on how campaigns woo voters.
October 01, 2004
"Neurogaming": Video-games + Neurofeedback
For keeping up with the latest in neuroscience, Zack Lynch’s “Brainwaves” site at Corante Tech News is a ‘must visit’. Recently the site pointed to the rise of ‘neurogaming’, i.e. building neurofeedback into video games in order to improve a person’s cognitive processing capabilities. Applications are directed at learning enhancement - not just for kids but adults too. Remedial applications are likely to be another big market - to help in problems such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.
July 26, 2004
Brain Waves: Neuroimaging Breakthrough - Magnetic Resonance Force Microscopy
Corante Tech News (Zack Lynch) reports that IBM Researchers have made a radical breakthrough in imaging sensitivity. The method is called magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM) and improves MRI sensitivity by some 10 million times compared to the medical MRI devices used to visualize organs in the human body. It is so sensitive that it can detect the faint magnetic signal from a single electron buried inside a solid sample. While applications on live human tissues, like the brain, are still speculative, this imaging breakthrough is an important step in non-invasive single neuron brain imaging.
July 24, 2004
Synopsis of Reported Neuromarketing Studies
Links to, and summaries of, all reported studies that I have found (updated 24 July 04) Download synopsis_of_neuromarketing_studies
July 23, 2004
Voice Stress Analysis Used in Terrorism & Insurance Application
Technological development is inevitable and some applications are clearly desirable but the need for guidelines/'ethical charters' and controls to direct how and where a technology is applied becomes more and more pressing as it becomes more refined and becomes more widely adopted. Voice stress analysis is a technology that has been around for a decade or more. This NYT article reveals that one supplier is working on an anti-terrorist system that lets airport screeners apply a 30-second, five-question test to determine whether a passenger should be put on a fast track or interviewed further. And in Britain, a growing number of insurance companies are using voice stress analysis to screen telephone claims in hopes of rooting out fraud - a goal they say has been borne out, both in fraud detection and in deterrence. One insurer, Admiral, says 25 percent of its car-theft claims have been withdrawn since it began using the system a year ago. But the technology's reliability is still a matter of debate...... Now that it is being used in the insurance industry, for example, the concerns include how a suspect claim might affect a customer's subsequent applications for insurance.