02 November 2012

Mind the Man Behind the Curtain

To most people, their awareness of the world seems integrated and generally effortless, automatic. But on deeper levels, billions of syncopated actions are taking places. On yet deeper levels . . . well, we won't go that deep today.
...we have evolved asymmetrical brains, the right and the left hemispheres, separated (as well as connected) by the corpus callosum, such that these two parts of our brains experience the world in very different yet equally necessary ways. _Philosophy and the 2-Sided Brain

Typical Specialisation of Cerebral Hemispheres

The two hemispheres of the cerebral cortex tend to specialise and divide different functions and specialties between them. The ability to use and understand language is usually the province of the left cerebral hemisphere. This means, for example, that if language information is presented to the right hemisphere, that information must be sent across to the left side for interpretation and analysis.

Advanced brain imaging tools combined with state of the art mathematical / computational analysis tools, have allowed researchers to better understand how information is shared between the two sides of the brain.
In the new study, researchers used magnetoencephalography, or MEG, a non-invasive tool that measures the continuous brain activity of nine healthy young adults. The participants were briefly flashed a stimulus that was either a real word or a "word-like" non-word. The stimulus was randomly shown either to the left or right brain, using a split-visual field experimental technique. MEG allows researchers to peer into brain activity at the rate of 512 images per second, while fMRI only allows for images to be recorded at the rate of one image every two seconds.

The researchers processed this temporal data using novel network analysis techniques drawn from the mathematical and physical sciences that enable them to examine the dynamic nature of brain communication. This novel network analysis allows the data to be presented in movie form, rather than as snapshots. The researchers found that the strength of connections between the left and right hemispheres depended on whether the stimulus was shown to the left or right brain hemisphere.

"A larger number of statistically significant connections were present at several time points after the stimulus when the word or pronounceable non-word was shown to the right brain and needed to be transferred to the language-specialized left brain," said Danielle S. Bassett, UC Santa Barbara Sage Junior Research Fellow in the Department of Physics and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

"The results further suggest that brain function measured with MEG can be broken into functional communities that rearrange their organization over time –– based on whether the left or right brain saw the stimulus, and thus whether inter-hemispheric information transfer must take place," said Bassett._ME
Research paper abstract from PNAS

Abstract of earlier research

Description of brain imaging tools used in this type of research

The man behind the curtain is your brain, and how it works. You may not care about how your brain works, but a lot of other people do. They want to know what makes you tick, even if you could not care less.

Because too often, dancing to another person's tune is what happens to you while you are making other plans.


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

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