10 April 2011

Can Realtime fMRI Neurofeedback Help Us Learn Wisdom?

How can humans turn "the stampede toward Idiocracy" into a movement toward a wiser, more intelligent society? It seems obvious that there is a current shortage of both intelligence and wisdom at the highest levels of analysis and decision-making.
"Wisdom and intelligence aren't the same thing,"...only 5 percent of the population can be described as truly wise and that advanced insight begins after adolescence as the brain matures.... _Eurekalert
Real-time fMRI (functional MRI) neurofeedback allows a person to observe his brain activity as it happens. This gives him the ability to alter his own thinking, on the fly. By learning to perform thinking tasks more successfully, the brain can be trained to operate more efficiently at below-conscious levels.
"Just like athletes in training benefit from a coach's guidance, feedback from our brain can help us to be more aware of our thoughts," says co-author Prof. Kalina Christoff, UBC Dept. of Psychology. "Our findings suggest that the ability to control our thinking improves when we know how the corresponding area in our brain is behaving."

For the study, published the current issue of NeuroImage journal, participants performed tasks that either raised or lowered mental introspection in 30-second intervals over four six-minute sessions. fMRI technology tracked real-time activity in the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC), the region of the brain involved with higher-order thoughts.

Participants with access to real-time fMRI feedback could see their RLPFC activity increase during introspection and decrease during non-introspective thoughts, such as mental tasks that focused on body sensations. These participants used the feedback to guide their thoughts, which significantly improved their ability to control their thoughts and successfully perform the mental tasks. In contrast, participants given inaccurate or no brain feedback did not achieve any improvement in brain regulation. _SD
Wiser brains think more efficiently, and arrive at workable solutions to problems more quickly -- even in the midst of distractions. Neurofeedback allows persons to train their own brains to focus on the cognitive task at hand. Properly shaped exercises will allow for more efficient functioning of parts of the brain which work together to provide higher level thought, analysis, and decision making.

We know that much of our understanding of the world -- even our scientific understanding -- is based upon belief and "gut instinct". Our early beliefs are based upon the perceived credibility of the source of our "knowledge." Later beliefs are based at least partially on earlier beliefs -- regardless of their validity.
If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we accept the incredibly complex scientific phenomena in physics, astronomy, and biology through the process of belief, not through reason. We don’t practice the scientific method. We don’t rationally consider the evidence presented for a theory. We don’t learn science by doing science, we learn science by reading and memorizing. The same way we learn history. Do you really know what an atom is, or that a Higgs boson is a rather important thing, or did you simply accept they were what someone told you they were? _PartialObjects _ via _ Slashdot

The same sort of "house of cards" belief systems also come into play in a person's other belief-based "knowledge". Some scientists even claim that they can tell a "political conservative" from a "political liberal" on a brain scan. No doubt more than a little bit of the scientists' own belief systems are coming into play in the research design and interpretation, but scientists are only slightly advanced monkeys -- like everyone else. That is the point -- everyone uses his belief system in every aspect of his life. And all belief systems are prone to bias, irrationality, and prejudice.

Mere intelligence is no safeguard against biased belief systems. Wisdom, on the other hand, can be a safeguard if it is broad and deep enough. Since most people are not naturally wise -- no matter how intelligent -- it follows that if we want a wiser society, we will need to learn to train people to at least be wiser than they are at present.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts