Visualizing Human Intention
Neuroscientists may predict what you will do before you do it.
Scientists have verified that it’s possible to predict a person’s actions (specifically, a range of hand movements) before those actions take place. The researchers from the University of Western Ontario sought to reveal how planning activity in the areas of the brain that are associated with reaching and grasping (the superior parietal cortex, middle intraparietal sulcus, and dorsal premotor cortex) indicated future movement.
Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which reveals blood flow within the brain, the researchers discovered that the brain’s grasping areas do indeed take more blood flow not only when acting, but also when considering whether or not to pick up an object. Interestingly, the blood-flow pattern changes depending on whether the subject intends to grasp the object by the top or bottom and whether she intends to turn it.
“It now seems clear that fMRI pattern analysis in humans can provide a new tool for capturing neural representations only previously detected with invasive electrode recordings in monkeys,” the researchers write.
“Neuroimaging allows us to look at how action planning unfolds within human brain areas without having to insert electrodes directly into the human brain. This is obviously far less intrusive,” says psychology professor Jody Culham, one of the study’s authors.
The finding follows previous studies on the relationship between planning and action in the brain. In a 2009 paper published in the journal Psychological Science, Washington University researcher Nicole Speer and her colleagues used fMRI to examine hemoglobin flow when people read fiction and discovered that the “readers mentally simulate each new situation encountered in a narrative.” Specifically, when people read about a character grasping and holding an object, the area of the reader’s brain associated with those actions draws more blood. The brain regions that are activated “closely mirror those involved when people perform or imagine or observe similar real-world activities.”
These and similar breakthroughs could one day aid in the creation of better prosthetic devices that respond to and return signals to the brain more like actual limbs.
Source: “Decoding Action Intentions from Preparatory Brain Activity in Human Parieto-Frontal Networks” by Jason P. Gallivan et al. The Journal of Neuroscience (June 29, 2011).
Free Email Newsletter
To sign up for Futurist Update, our free monthly email newsletter, enter your email in the box below and click Save.
November 19, 2014 - Ever wondered why not just Spiderman but lizards and all kinds of insects can climb up walls? Ever wanted to be just like Spiderman when it comes to wall climbing?
November 19, 2014 - The first natural gas power plant that completely captures carbon is about to be constructed by NET Power, a Durham, North Carolina company. The 50 Megawatt facility is being built in Texas and will go online in 2016 at a cost of $140 million U.S.
November 18, 2014 - Yesterday a friend of mine sent me a news clipping from The Washington Post. But before I talk about the content of what he forwarded I want to take you down memory lane for a minute. What was the world like before the appearance of the cellphone?
November 17, 2014 - Cambridge, England's Solar Cloth Company has announced its first trials of its solar cloth, a lightweight photovoltaic fabric designed to stretch over roofs, carports, parking lots and any other structure that normally could be covered and that cannot handle the weight of silicon-
November 17, 2014 - When I awoke this morning there was a couple of centimeters of snow on the ground here in mid-town Toronto. Typically Toronto gets its first snow in November but the snow tends to go away pretty quickly. But for some reason, this recent cold snap seems to have arrived early this year and along with it the white stuff.
Will society regain a fast-growth economy where everyone prospers? Not when every tech company must own the digital future because tech markets are winner-take-all, with control by a few winners. Consider what’s missing: A unifying vision for a successful Digital Earth with independent new technology and hope. Then the future can become new ways for you to reach your best possible future, in the ways you choose.
November 16, 2014 - A few years ago Paul Allen, of Microsoft and X-Prize fame, proposed buying two Boeing 747s, removing an outside wing on one and an inside wing on the other and joining them together using a central spar which would be strong enough to hold a suspended chemical rocket beneath. This would replace having to launch payloads into low-Earth orbit from Earth's surface.