February 1, 2008 Cognitive scientists ran an experiment to understand how the brain searches for an object with a known shape. They asked subjects to track the movement of dots, and used fMRI to see which parts of the brain activated. The fMRI showed that when the brain is looking for a particular feature, such as a certain shape or color, it is searching for that feature everywhere in the visual field, not just in the spot where the eyes focus.
Are you always losing things? Your purse? The remote? You're not alone. But now, scientists may have found the key to finding your lost keys … and more!
Finding those lost keys could get a little easier if you understand how your brain searches for things. Cognitive scientists used fMRI to watch people's brains while they tracked the movement of these dots. The researchers discovered -- certain parts of your brain light up!
"Simply by thinking about a particular feature, you can make your brain reconfigure to become more sensitive to it," John Serences, Ph.D., assistant professor of cognitive sciences at the University of California, Irvine, told Ivanhoe.
It works for finding people, too. "If you're looking for your friend in a crowd and you know that they're wearing a red jacket, then red things tend to jump out at you," Dr. Serences said.
This discovery won't just help you find things. Dr. Serences says knowing what parts of the brain activate when you're concentrating on something could help doctors diagnose attention deficit disorder, or ADD.
"This would be a significant advance because currently, most diagnoses of things like ADD are done on a largely subjective scale." Dr. Serences said.
And earlier and more accurate diagnoses could mean more effective treatment.
WHAT IS fMRI? Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field rather than X-rays to take clear and detailed pictures of internal organs and tissues. fMRI uses this technology to identify regions of the brain where blood vessels are expanding, chemical changes are taking place, or extra oxygen is being delivered. These are indications that a particular part of the brain is processing information and giving commands to the body. As a patient performs a particular task, the metabolism will increase in the brain area responsible for that task, changing the signal in the MRI image. So by performing specific tasks that correspond to different functions, scientists can locate the part of the brain that governs that function.
Editor's Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.