Clarke’s Third Law

Today I want to take a break from breaking news and tell you about the new love of my life: my Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset. This thing costs $299, and it is worth every penny. It uses 14 sensors positioned around my scalp to create a wireless EEG interface between my brain and my computer. I can move objects onscreen by thinking about it. I can click the mouse by thinking “click.” I can watch real-time video maps of my brain activity as I think about different ideas. I can summon specific feelings to navigate through photo albums sorted by emotion. In short, the future … Continue reading Clarke’s Third Law

Brain Scans & Lucid Dreams

The brain activity of lucid dreamers – people who become aware that they’re in a dream state – shows some interesting similarities with that of people who are awake, says a new study. By studying the brain activity of lucid dreamers under electroencephalograms (EEGs) and fMRI scans, researchers have found that activity in the somatosensory and motor cortices – regions crucial for touch and movement, respectively – show very similar activation patterns during lucid dreams to those they display when people make or imagine those same movements while awake. Though dreams have fascinated philosophers and scientists since the dawn of history … Continue reading Brain Scans & Lucid Dreams

The Sound of Fear

A certain inaudible sound frequency may directly trigger feelings of “creepiness” and physical symptoms of fear, one scientist says. A sound frequency of around 19hz – just below the range of human hearing – has been detected in several “haunted” places, including a laboratory where staff had reported inexplicable feelings of panic, and and a pub cellar where many people have claimed to see ghosts. Though no peer-reviewed studies have examined this phenomenon yet, I think it’s still intriguing enough to be worth talking about – and after all, it is that special time of year. So huddle up close, and … Continue reading The Sound of Fear

Rhythms of Memory

Our neurons learn best when they’re working on the same wavelength – literally, says a new study. For every synapse – every signaling junction between neurons – there’s a certain firing frequency that increases signal strength the most. In short, neurons work like tiny analog antennas – tuning into incoming signals and passing along the clearest, strongest ones as electrochemical messages. This represents a huge breakthrough in our understanding of how our brains work. Neuroscientists have known for decades that we (and other animals) learn by strengthening connections between certain neurons – i.e., the more a pair of neurons communicate with each … Continue reading Rhythms of Memory

Virtual Touch

A new brain-machine interface allows minds to literally feel the texture of computer-generated objects, a recent paper reports. This interface not only allows a monkey to remotely control a virtual hand by willing it to move – the system also routes feedback on textures and vibrations to the somatosensory cortex, where that feedback is processed as sensations of touch. Though mind-controlled robotic hands aren’t exactly breaking news anymore, most of those devices only provide visual feedback – in other words, the users of those robotic hands can’t actually feel the objects the hands touch. One recent project did use vibration feedback to help … Continue reading Virtual Touch

Brain Videos!

For the first time ever, scientists have recorded video images from the brain’s visual pathway, a new study reports. By recording fMRI scans of volunteers’ brains as they watched various movie clips, the scientists were able to correlate neuronal firing patterns with certain aspects of visual images – like, say, coordinates or colors. Another specially designed software program then looked back through the brain scans, and assembled its own composite video clips that corresponded to certain data from the volunteers’ brain activity. This might sound a little confusing, so let’s break the process down step-by-step. As the journal Current Biology … Continue reading Brain Videos!

Lies! All Lies!

Stimulating a certain brain region can influence our tendency to lie or tell the truth, a new study shows. People who receive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to their left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) tend to lie more often, while people who receive TMS to their right DLPFC are more likely to tell the truth. Stimulation of other brain regions doesn’t seem to have any particular effect on people’s truthfulness. As the journal Behavioural Brain Research reports, a team led by Inga Karton and Talis Bachmann1 at Estonia’s BachmannLab stimulated 16 volunteers with TMS, which sends magnetic pulses through targeted brain … Continue reading Lies! All Lies!