"When your dog gazes up at you adoringly, what does it see? A best friend? A pack leader? A can opener?" Gregory Berns of Emory University decided to put a couple canines in an MRI scanner to try and find out what goes on inside their heads (adorable news footage here). The results have recently been published in PLoS ONE.
Functional MRI (fMRI) is a widely used technique of brain imaging in the cognitive sciences, allowing researchers to visualize what part of the brain is responding to certain stimuli, resulting in striking images of live brains. These days, fMRI is seeing more non-research use, such as forming the basis of controversial new lie detectors. Craig Bennett, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSB, submitted a whole Atlantic salmon to fMRI analysis, and found that this fish could apparently detect, and respond to, the the emotional state of human beings (poster). Remarkable science, especially considering the salmon was dead at the time. [more inside]
Don't Even Think About Lying fMRI is poised to transform the security industry, the judicial system, and our fundamental notions of privacy. I'm in a lab at Columbia University, where scientists are using the technology to analyze the cognitive differences between truth and lies. By mapping the neural circuits behind deception, researchers are turning fMRI into a new kind of lie detector that's more probing and accurate than the polygraph, the standard lie-detection tool employed by law enforcement and intelligence agencies for nearly a century.