Tag Archives | Brain Scans

Scientists Declare Buddhist Monk The World’s Happiest Person

Happiness is a gamma wave. Via Oddity Central:

Matthieu Ricard was declared the happiest man on Earth by a group of scientists after it was discovered his brain produces a level of gamma waves never before reported in the field of neuroscience.

A former molecular geneticist who left his life and career behind to discover the secrets of Buddhism, Ricard is now one of the most celebrated monks in the Himalayas and a trusted advisor of the Dalai Lama. In 2009, neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up the French monk’s head with 256 sensors as part of a research project on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation.

The scans showed something remarkable: when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produced a level of gamma waves linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory that were never even reported before in neuroscience literature. Furthermore, the scans scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity.

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Racism May Not Be “Natural” (But Being an Asshole Is)

From "2001: A Space Odyssey"

Brain scans have shown that when people see faces of other races, their amygdalas light up like home security systems.  Some tout this as evidence of hardwired racial bias, evolved to keep the oddly colored “other” out of home territory.  But as Robert Wright points out in this recent article, there would be few opportunities for interracial conflict in our geographically dispersed evolutionary past.  The “other” would primarily be distinguished by different visual cues such as tribal emblems, because hostile neighboring tribes would generally be of the same race.

More recent brain scan experiments done on children show that, like menstrual cramps and unstoppable boners, neurological race rage doesn’t kick in until after puberty.  While the question of “nature vs. nurture” is still open, this suggests that cultural forces are at work.

Wright’s line of reasoning is pretty solid when he says, “[T]hough we’re not naturally racist, we’re naturally ‘groupist.'”

Via The Atlantic:

There’s never been good reason to believe that human beings are naturally racist.… Read the rest

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Brain Scans Show Apple Products Triggering The Same Parts Of The Brain As Religion

1816630067_c70cddc78fGo figure — scans taken when Apple devotees were shown the company’s logo and products demonstrate that we literally worship our favorite brands. Digital Trends writes:

UK neuroscientists suggest that the brains of Apple devotees are stimulated by Apple imagery in the same way that the brains of religious people are stimulated by religious imagery.

Alex Riley contacted the editor of World of Apple, Alex Brooks, an Apple worshipper who claims to think about Apple 24 hours a day, which is possibly 23 hours too many for most regular people. A team of neuroscientists studied Brooks’ brain while undergoing an MRI scan, to see how it reacted to images of Apple products and (heaven forbid) non-Apple products.

According to the neuroscientists, the scan revealed that there were marked differences in Brooks’ reactions to the different products. Previously, the scientists had studied the brains of those of religious faith, and they found that, as Riley puts it: “The Apple products are triggering the same bits of [Brooks’] brain as religious imagery triggers in a person of faith.”

This suggests that the big tech brands have harnessed, or exploit, the brain areas that have evolved to process religion,” one of the scientists says.

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Brain Scan Can Tell If A Smoker Will Quit

If your New Years resolution is to quit smoking every year, there may be scientific proof as to why you never seem to be able to follow through with it. Or you can keep telling yourself, “I’ll quit tomorrow.” The Vancouver Sun reports:

U.S. researchers have found a way to predict how successful a smoker will be at quitting by using an MRI scan to look for activity in a region of the brain associated with behaviour change.

The scans were performed on 28 heavy smokers who had joined an anti-smoking program, according to the study published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Health Psychology.

Participants were asked to watch a series of commercials about quitting smoking while a magnetic resonance imaging machine scanned their brains for activity.

[Continues at The Vancouver Sun]

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Study Sheds Light on What Makes People Shy

Clark KentI'm not suggesting that "shyness" means you secretly are an alien from the planet Krypton, who has to disguise one's true nature from everyone around you ... but it can feel like that at times. Reports LiveScience:
The brains of shy or introverted individuals might actually process the world differently than their more extroverted counterparts, a new study suggests. About 20 percent of people are born with a personality trait called sensory perception sensitivity (SPS) that can manifest itself as the tendency to be inhibited, or even neuroticism. The trait can be seen in some children who are "slow to warm up" in a situation but eventually join in, need little punishment, cry easily, ask unusual questions or have especially deep thoughts, the study researchers say. The new results show that these highly sensitive individuals also pay more attention to detail, and have more activity in certain regions of their brains when trying to process visual information than those who are not classified as highly sensitive.
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Courtroom First: Brain Scan Used in Murder Sentencing

BrainScanHomerSimpsonAlexis Madrigal writes in Wired:

A defendant’s fMRI brain scan has been used in court for what is believed to be the first time.

Brain scan evidence that the defense claimed shows the defendant’s brain was psychopathic was allowed into the sentencing portion of a murder trial in Chicago, Science reported Monday. Brian Dugan, who had been convicted of the rape and murder of a 10-year-old, was sentenced to death, despite the fMRI scans.

“I don’t know of any other cases where fMRI was used in that context,” Stanford professor Hank Greely told Science.

While the possibility of using fMRI data in a variety of contexts, particularly lie detection, has bounced around the margins of the legal system for years, there are almost no documented cases of its actual use. In the 2005 case Roper v. Simmons, the Supreme Court allowed brain scans to be entered as evidence received at least one amicus brief based in part on brain scans showing that adolescent brains work differently than adult brains.

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