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).
Keep up with the World Future Society. Subscribe to our mailing list:
February 12, 2016 - Human civilization has arisen in an interglacial warming period. It was a mere 12,000 years ago that our planet cycled from an Ice Age to milder conditions. The cause of cyclical warming and cooling has had nothing to do with us.
February 11, 2016 - The problem with greenhouse gases is they don't recognize political boundaries. Carbon dioxide emitted in China and the United States impacts the entire globe.
February 11, 2016 - In the world of smart devices these days reliance on a plug in charging system is like walking around with an anchor dragging behind you. I have written about wireless recharging technologies that use pads.
February 10, 2016 - That Albert Einstein was a pretty smart guy. A century ago in a thought experiment leading to general relativity he theorized gravitational waves.
February 10, 2016 - The conservative wing of the American Supreme Court is not interested in combating climate change. Instead 5 justices have buried their heads in the sand in the name of non-science and nonsense.
February 10, 2016 - Entitled Leading Edge Asynchronous Propeller Technology (LEAPTech), this experimental hybrid-electric propulsion system will soon move from a test bed on the back of a truck at Edwards Air Force Base in California, to a demonstration X-plane expected to fly in 2019.
February 9, 2016 - At the Paris climate talks greenhouse gas emissions from ships and airplanes were discussed but there was no final agreement on a cap.
February 8, 2016 - Peter Diamandis talks about what happens when eight different exponential technologies come onto the scene at the same time. In a series of blogs that I will share with my readers here he waxes poetic on a future where the following fields will morph and recombine to produce an unpredictable future. What's fields are these?