Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mind Reading as Medicine: Do You See the Future?

tidbits that tantalize

I See an MRI

In Your Future...

2012 - Big Top Retirement Home

Shady Acres, Montana

They needed the space. Most retirement homes locate in the city, close to groceries, shopping and other essential services. But, few retirement homes have to deal with pet horses, camels and elephants. Throw in the Big Top, the safety-rigged geriatric trampolines and the occasional mini car race among the clowns and the wide-open spaces of Montana seemed perfect.

And, it's a good life for retirees of circuses, sideshows and state fairs. Everyone seems quite happy. Everyone, that is, except Marvin - the mentalist.

Marvin has been in a funk since he read the news about the new mind-reading MRI device. He remembers the good old days. No fancy gizmos and gadgets, no scientific safety net. It was sideshow trickery at its best and, though he wished he had chosen a somewhat flashier name, Marvin the Mighty Mentalist wowed crowds across the upper Midwest and, once, deep into the hills and hollers of Tennessee. But...

With the new mind-reading scientific MRI gadgets popping up everywhere the future looks bleak. His son, Melvin the Magnificent Mentalist, has struggled to find audiences willing to accept less than a 99.87% accuracy rate and what's to become of his grandson, little Mervin? Little Mervin has been forced into medical school, where he'll be trained as a neurologist specializing in memory. It's a sad day...

Has science taken over where the Big Top left off? It certainly appears so.

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a powerful magnetic resonance Imaging (MRI) device that may be capable of reading minds. The 9.4 Tesla device is revolutionary, in that it tracks the flow of sodium in the brain, as opposed to the more common tracking of the flow of water, the primary component within blood. This allows the device to track, in real time, the firing of individual neurons within the brain.

This ability to track the firing of individual neurons allows scientists to assess the precise formation of thoughts and to view the pathways they travel. What neurons fire when we catch a whiff of hot apple pie? Which pathway does the initial response follow as it triggers memories of summers at grandma's, afternoon swims under the hot sun and the wonder of shooting stars? Can the device determine if you are telling a lie?

...Marvin sighs as he looks across the stunning Montana landscape. He knows his glory days are long past, but he has a plan to rescue his grandson from the clutches of modern medicine. He figures that the 40-ton weight of the 9.4 Tesla scanner means it won't be hitting the road anytime soon. He turns his attention back to a disassembled microwave oven. His mind wanders as he makes his final alterations and he envisions himself sitting front and center as the ringmaster introduces his grandson, Mervin the Microwave Mentalist...

To read more about this amazing technology, see this excellent article at the Chicago Tribune.

(Free registration is required to access the article)


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