Reverse-Engineering the Brain

Joy Hirsch: None of us have crystal balls, and there may well be new technologies out there that we’re not aware of.  But there are some advances that are on the horizon, and these advances, in my opinion, involve integration of known technologies more than new technologies. 

There is a relatively new development that suggests, if we really understand the patterns of activity in the brain that are elicited by specific tasks - say a decision task, a language task, a problem-solving task or just a perceptual task - that one could look at those patterns and go backwards and tell an audience what was going on in the brain.  This is sometimes referred to as “brain reading,” and it’s a very interesting field emerging that takes very seriously the signatures or global patterns of the brain, uses them to entrain algorithms and then to predict what the brain was doing. 

The integration of structural imaging - higher and higher resolution, of course - is extremely valuable, so as our scanners become higher field strengths we can resolve higher granularity of the anatomical details, almost down to the cellular levels. 

Higher field strengths also allow us to look at the connectivities of the actual nerve fibers that connect specific areas of the brain, so we’ll be able to see better pictures of the brain.

Computational techniques and faster, bigger, better computers are extraordinarily valuable in analyzing all of this data.  The faster our computers are, the more sophisticated and complex our algorithms are, the better we can mine the data to interpret what we’re seeing.

Combining the high-resolution techniques with cardiovascular-based methodologies with the high-temporal resolutions of the electromagnetic-based techniques, such as EEG and MEG, provide us both dynamic temporal advantages with spatial advantages.  And so the combination of these two technologies in the future, I think will add another dimension to our ability to look at structure-function questions in the brain.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

Neuroscientist Joy Hirsch talks about the new frontier of brain imaging.

Is it ethical to pay people to get vaccinated?

It could lead to a massive uptake in those previously hesitant.

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Coronavirus

A financial shot in the arm could be just what is needed for Americans unsure about vaccination.

Keep reading Show less

Every 27.5 million years, the Earth’s heart beats catastrophically

Geologists discover a rhythm to major geologic events.

Credit: desertsolitaire/Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • It appears that Earth has a geologic "pulse," with clusters of major events occurring every 27.5 million years.
  • Working with the most accurate dating methods available, the authors of the study constructed a new history of the last 260 million years.
  • Exactly why these cycles occur remains unknown, but there are some interesting theories.
Keep reading Show less

Massive 'Darth Vader' isopod found lurking in the Indian Ocean

The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.

SJADE 2018
Surprising Science
  • A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
  • It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
  • The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
Keep reading Show less

Galactic wind from early universe detected

Researchers discovered a galactic wind from a supermassive black hole that sheds light on the evolution of galaxies.

Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds the oldest galactic wind yet detected, from 13.1 billion years ago.
  • The research confirms the theory that black holes and galaxies evolve together.
  • The galactic wind was spotted using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast