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Thinking of my amygdala makes the amygdala light up



The title is my little joke. This type of stuff is everywhere nowadays, so these to are just two examples.

3 Quarks has today, ( 17 July 08 ) linked to a very good, and I consider, important essay in The New Atlantis, The Limits of Neuro-Talk*, by Matthew B. Crawford — a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia and a contributing editor of The New Atlantis — which perhaps ought to to go out with every report of a new attempt to localise cognitive functioning by scanning the brain. Make a cup of tea or coffee, and settle down to absorb this. The writers amongst you who might have been toying with the idea of doing a satire on this type of thing, note there is already company called NoLieMRI:

” No Lie MRI, Inc. provides unbiased methods for the detection of deception and other information stored in the brain.

The technology used by No Lie MRI represents the first and only direct measure of truth verification and lie detection in human history!

No Lie MRI uses techniques that:

  • Bypass conscious cognitive processing
  • Measure the activity of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) rather than the peripheral nervous system (as polygraph testing does).”
  • (1) My Amygdala, My Self,  Jeffrey Goldberg,  Atlantic Monthly, July/August 2008

    Intrigued (and alarmed) by the new science of “neuromarketing,” our correspondent peers into his own brain via an MRI machine and learns what he really thinks about Jimmy Carter, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bruce Springsteen, and Edie Falco.

    “[…] dorso-lateral prefrontal-cortex activity means … trying to inhibit your automatic responses.”

    Which is what happened when I saw a picture of my wife. This had me concerned, but Iacoboni explained: “The dorso-lateral prefrontal-cortex activity means you’re trying to exercise cognitive control, that you’re trying to protect the privacy of your relationship with your wife. I interpret this positively because there’s also medial orbito-frontal cortex activity, which is a region associated with positive emotion.” Iacoboni could not explain one other response to my wife’s photograph: “You have weird auditory-cortex activity, almost like you’re hearing her voice, even though we just showed you her picture without sound.” When I told my wife about this, she asked me how it could be that I hear her when she’s not speaking, but don’t hear her when she is speaking. I said that this was a question well beyond the capacity of neuroscience to answer.

    (2) Passive learning imprints on the brain just like active learning

    This too, is an fMRI* study. Here a short report on the research in Physorg.

    It is quite instructive to go back to the old fashioned type of psychology experiment relying on subjective report such as psychological studies on ironic effects, for example Daniel M. Wegner’s Ironic Processing Theory.  A page of Wegner‘s which has a list of pdf format papers on this subject  here.  One of his well-know papers is the short, data-free Seeds of Our Undoing.  People who scribble: note the last para.




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    July 8, 2008 Posted by | human nature, neuroscience, psychology, science | , , , , | Leave a comment