BRAIN

HAR­NESS­ING THE HID­DEN POWER OF YOUR BRAIN

Guru Magazine - - IN THE NEWS - Si­mon Makin

Be­ing able to watch your brain’s ac­tiv­ity while you work might help you to con­trol your think­ing and boost per­for­mance, ac­cord­ing to a new study from re­searchers at the Well­come Trust Cen­tre for Neu­roimag­ing at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don (UCL). The ap­proach, known as neu­ro­feed­back, in­volves let­ting peo­ple watch what their brains are do­ing on a screen – as it’s ac­tu­ally hap­pen­ing. The team at UCL mon­i­tored brain ac­tiv­ity us­ing a tech­nol­ogy called func­tional mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing (fMRI) to show vol­un­teers the lo­ca­tion of ac­tiv­ity in their brains as they imag­ined im­ages. Dur­ing this ‘train­ing’, vol­un­teers were asked to try to change how they thought to in­crease ac­tiv­ity in the back of their brain – the vis­ual cor­tex, where vis­ual in­for­ma­tion is pro­cessed. Af­ter a train­ing ses­sion, the sub­jects were given the job of spot­ting sub­tle changes in the con­trast of a pic­ture – that is, tiny dif­fer­ences in colour in­ten­sity and bright­ness. Those who had been able to con­trol their brain ac­tiv­ity dur­ing the ini­tial train­ing – by suc­cess­fully learn­ing how to in­crease vis­ual cor­tex ac­tiv­ity – were bet­ter able to de­tect the sub­tle changes in the task. The sci­en­tists hope the tech­nique could be used to ben­e­fit peo­ple with im­paired brain func­tion, such as peo­ple who have had a stroke, and of­ten have dif­fi­culty see­ing even though their eyes aren’t dam­aged. Who knows, maybe one day ‘neu­ro­feed­back’ might be a tech­nique we could all use to boost our men­tal abil­i­ties. Well, here’s hop­ing…

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