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.
When we look into space we are actually looking back in time. This is because we are looking at old light traveling towards us at 186,000 miles/second. We already know that if someone is watching us through a large telescope on the Moon, they’re seeing events that happened 1.3 seconds earlier because that’s how long it takes light to reach Earth. Using this as a very crude proof, we already know that information does indeed transcend the here and now, but can we ever access it and reassemble it into a useful form?
The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has implications for world health that cannot be ignored. The disease has killed more than 660 and infected almost 1,100 in four countries since March of this year and new cases are cropping up every day.
The images that Curiosity is sending back from Gale Crateris showing soil profiles similar to the ancient soil found in the dry valleys of Antarctica and in the alto-Plano of the Atacama Desert in Northern Chile. The soil images and data indicate chemical weathering and accumulations of clay just as one would find them here on Earth. Phosphorus depletion, associated with microbial activity here on Earth, is evident from the information Curiosity has gathered.
Nikolai Kardashev, a Soviet astrophysicist born in 1932, devised a method of rating advanced civilizations. Technological advances, according to Kardashev, could theoretically create conditions where a society could maximize use of energy. He categorized each of these stages as Type 1 through Type 4. Based on Kardashev's speculations where does our civilization sit today?
Powdery mildew-resistant wheat has been created using a pair of DNA-clipping and insertion tools. These are tools developed by Editas Medicine for editing defective DNA and are being used in the fight against a number of genetic diseases. And with wheat they are proving to be useful in overcoming the devastating impact of mildew.
This is not the first time I have written about the future of the Colorado River Basin and it probably won't be the last. But by then I may be describing the Colorado wadi, a former river.
In tomorrow’s digital world control shifts to you. Your digital boundaries will dynamically change the CGI green screen world on your devices’ screens. When you can choose who and where you really want to be, we will learn there are many kinds of greatness in all of us. It will be new stage of history, an age when we control reality and start choosing everything.
When my wife and I downsized we left our satellite dish and satellite TV behind and went back to cable because that's what was available in the building where we have our apartment. We are not alone in abandoning this technology. Homes that were early adopters of satellite TV can have enormous dishes sitting in backyards or rigged on to poles projected above the roof line of their homes.