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Japanese Neuroscientists: Yeah, An Intersect is Doable

If this can happen, this will blow all of our minds.  Literally.

Experiments conducted at Boston University (BU) and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan, recently demonstrated that through a person’s visual cortex, researchers could use decoded functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to induce brain activity patterns to match a previously known target state and thereby improve performance on visual tasks.

Think of a person watching a computer screen and having his or her brain patterns modified to match those of a high-performing athlete or modified to recuperate from an accident or disease. Though preliminary, researchers say such possibilities may exist in the future.

“Adult early visual areas are sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning,” said lead author and BU neuroscientist Takeo Watanabe of the part of the brain analyzed in the study.

Neuroscientists have found that pictures gradually build up inside a person’s brain, appearing first as lines, edges, shapes, colors and motion in early visual areas. The brain then fills in greater detail to make a red ball appear as a red ball, for example.

Researchers studied the early visual areas for their ability to cause improvements in visual performance and learning.

“Some previous research confirmed a correlation between improving visual performance and changes in early visual areas, while other researchers found correlations in higher visual and decision areas,” said Watanabe, director of BU’s Visual Science Laboratory. “However, none of these studies directly addressed the question of whether early visual areas are sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning.” Until now.

For those unaware with the NBC comedy / drama / action show “Chuck,” this pretty much highlights what they’ve called “The Intersect 2.0” in the series.   This newer Intersect was a massive governmental computer database which had all the government’s intelligence secrets in, but also allowed the person with it to access skills they never previously had such as kung fu, other languages, weapons use and so on.

Here’s a link to a montage at YouTube.  I’d embed it, but either NBC or Warner Bros. is not too happy with mass distributions of their content.

The two-hour series finale of “Chuck” is tomorrow night on NBC and 8 / 7 C.

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  • Mike Litscher

    Sounds like the novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.