I BEGAN THINKING ABOUT why these scientific methods and the resulting images have such a hold on our imaginations a couple of years ago, when I started shadowing a team of cognitive neuroscientists as they developed a study about the neural and cognitive bases of semantic knowledge. We eventually decided I’d be one of the test subjects. The study, which began late last spring, has given me first-hand experience with the fMRI machine and how data are collected and interpreted into usable results. Scientists are now employing fMRI technology—which has been in practical use since the 1980s—to study a wide range of neurological phenomena: visual perception, object recognition, memory, the effects of stroke and brain injury, depression, schizophrenia, degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, personality traits, fear, racial attitudes, deception, our relationship to food and sex, how we make financial and political decisions, and so on.
more from Jan Estep at Triple Canopy here.