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Brain Scans

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From the Daily Mail:

Could your views on God and immigration be changed by using MAGNETS? Brain stimulation can alter beliefs, study claims

Scientists used magnetic stimulation to shut down parts of people’s brains

They specifically targeted the posterior medial frontal cortex associated with how the brain detects and solves problems and threats

Participants reported that their belief in God dropped by a third in tests

There was also a 28% increase in positive feelings towards immigrants

PUBLISHED: 08:38 EST, 14 October 2015

Psychologists have discovered it’s possible to significantly change a person’s beliefs simply by targeting their brain with magnets.

Using what’s known as transcranial magnetic stimulation, the researchers were able to temporarily shut down the part of the brain associated with detecting and solving problems.

As Stalin might say if he were around today, No brain, no problem.

People who were subjected to this treatment reported that their belief in God dropped by a third following the stimulation, while there was an increase in positive feelings towards immigrants.

The study was carried out by Dr Keise Izuma from the University of York and Colin Holbrook from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

They recruited 38 participants with an average age of 21, to take part in the study.=

Each of these participants said they held significant religious beliefs, and the majority held moderate to extremely conservative political beliefs.

Political views were important because it suggested they were more likely to have stronger viewpoints on immigration.

Half of these participants formed part of a control group and received a low-level ‘sham’ procedure that did not affect their brains.

The other half received enough energy through transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to lower activity in the posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC).

This part of the brain, located near the surface and roughly a few inches up from the forehead, is associated with detecting problems and triggering responses that address them. …

Following the treatment, all the participants were first asked to think about death before being asked questions about their religious beliefs and their feelings about immigrants. …

To address their levels of prejudice, participants were asked to read two essays – one critical and one positive – written by an immigrant from Latin America about the US. …

After reading each essay, participants rated how much they liked the person who wrote the essay and how much they agreed with their views. …

The findings, published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, reveal that people whose brains were targeted by TMS reported 32.8 per cent less belief in God, angels, or heaven. They were also 28.5 per cent more positive in their feelings toward an immigrant who criticised their country.

The investigators additionally found that the magnetic stimulation had the greatest effect on reactions to the critical author in the essay test.

‘We think that hearing criticisms of your group’s values, perhaps especially from a person you perceive as an outsider, is processed as an ideological sort of threat,’ said Dr Izuma.

‘One way to respond to such threats is to ‘double down’ on your group values, increasing your investment in them, and reacting more negatively to the critic,’ he continued.

‘When we disrupted the brain region that usually helps detect and respond to threats, we saw a less negative, less ideologically motivated reaction to the critical author and his opinions.’ …

The TMS group also rated immigrants higher than the control group

… ‘Whether we’re trying to clamber over a fallen tree that we find in our path, find solace in religion, or resolve issues related to immigration, our brains are using the same basic mental machinery,’ the researchers concluded.

So, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for the donors to ¡Jeb!

Just use the Bush campaign’s megabucks to put these mind control magnets outside of voting booths in key primary states to turn off the brains of voters and your boy is a lock.

Having Americans trip over fallen trees more is a small price to pay for less skepticism about immigration.

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From my book review in Taki’s Magazine:

It’s a strange totem of the 21st century that if a brain scan can show us where something would happen inside the skull, we can therefore make it happen in ourselves; and also, hesto presto, we can fix African-American dysfunction by somehow making it happen in their brains. 

We don’t think this way about other organs, though. Consider the stomach. For a century or more, we’ve had a more than adequate knowledge of how the digestive system works. Yet on average we’re fatter than ever. Why? Not because the science of stomach scans hasn’t progressed enough, but because we like eating more than we like exercising.

Read the whole thing there.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Books, Brain Scans, Education 
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The great thing about the invention of brain scans is that they allow journalists to write articles about anicient topics as if they are news. 
And that’s a good thing! There are a lot of important and interesting subjects that aren’t “new,” that aren’t “growing” or “soaring” or “increasing” or all the other words that headline-writers feel obligated to use, but are still interesting. Fortunately, now there are brain scan studies coming out each month that reveal stuff we already kinda knew but are worth revisiting.
Here’s a model example from the NYT last month: “To Tug Hearts, Music First Must Tickle the Neurons.” I doubt if there’s much of substance in it that, say, George Bernard Shaw wasn’t writing about in his music reviews in the 19th Century, but it’s still worth repeating about why some music is better than other music.

One thing I noticed in this article was that one of the experiments mentioned involved vocalist Bobby McFerrin, who presumably has, like a lot of artists, some time on his hands. (His hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was back in 1988.) McFerrin is a ridiculously musically talented guy with ten Grammies, and I think studying the talented can be a useful shortcut in science.

For example, I went to a scientific conference in Russia in 2001 with a number of German ethologists who studied human nature by filming hundreds of hours of normal people in various situations for evidence about common facial expressions, body language, and so forth. (Here’s my article about Frank Salter videotaping would-be patrons approaching the bouncers behind the velvet rope at an exclusive night club.) My suggestion was that they could save time by videotaping a few professional improvisational comedians who make their living by exaggerating normal human reactions. For example, the old improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? with Wayne Brady and others is a trove of common but unexpected reactions.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Brain Scans, Music 
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In the pages of the New York Times, David Brooks once more bravely explore pathways beyond Sailerism’s complete stranglehold on the mass media.

In “The Young and the Neuro,” Brooks reports on the conference of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society’s, where all the scientists were “so damned young, hip and attractive.” Brooks then proceeds to recount the usual grab bag of studies about how different parts of the brain activate when shown pictures of people of different races or whatever, and sums up:

I suspect that the work will take us beyond the obsession with I.Q. and other conscious capacities and give us a firmer understanding of motivation, equilibrium, sensitivity and other unconscious capacities.

Isn’t it a shame how Linda Gottfredson makes $50k per speech to corporate executives while poor Malcolm Gladwell barely ekes out a living? *

Unfortunately, Brooks’ column about brain scans isn’t very persuasive because there aren’t any pictures of brains in it. As every editor knows, a picture of a brain in an article about brains makes the article convincing. A 2006 study in Cognition showed that “

(You know what would be the perfect “social cognitive neuroscience” experiment? Do brain scans on people while they are being shown pictures of brain scans. The part of the brain that lights up could be renamed the Credulity Lobe.)

For example, here is a scan of David Brooks’ brain during his dai ly reading of iSteve. As you can see, the experience is stimulating both the Man-I-Wish-I-Could-Say-Interesting-Stuff-Like-That and the But-I-Can’t-Or-I’ll-Lose-My-Job-So-I’ll-Say-the-Opposite sectors of his brain.

You just can’t argue with Science.

* By the way, Malcolm’s new article on football and concussions is pretty good.

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
• Tags: Brain Scans 
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Editors know that one of the easiest ways to keep readers from using their brains when reading a poorly reasoned story is to put a picture of a brain in it. Thus, from the BBC:

The brains of children from low-income families process information differently to those of their wealthier counterparts, US research suggests.

Normal nine and 10-year-olds from rich and poor backgrounds had differing electrical activity in a part of the brain linked to problem solving.

The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience study was described as a “wake-up call” about the impact of deprivation.

A UK researcher said it could shed light on early brain development.

The 26 children in the study, conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, were measured using an electroencephalograph (EEG), which measured activity in the “prefrontal cortex” of the brain.

Half were from low income homes, and half from high income families.

During the test, an image the children had not been briefed to expect was flashed onto a screen, and their brain responses were measured.

Those from lower income families showed a lower prefrontal cortex response to it than those from wealthier households.

Dr Mark Kishiyama, one of the researchers, said: “The low socioeconomic kids were not detecting or processing the visual stimuli as well – they were not getting that extra boost from the prefrontal cortex.”

Since the children were, in health terms, normal in every way, the researchers suspected that “stressful environments” created by low socioeconomic status might be to blame.

Previous studies have suggested that children in low-income families are spoken to far less – on average hearing 30 million fewer words by the age of four.

Talking boost

Professor Thomas Boyce, another of the researchers, said that talking more to children could boost prefrontal cortex development.

“We are certainly not blaming lower socioeconomic families for not talking to their kids – there are probably a zillion reasons why that happens.”

His colleague, Professor Robert Knight, added: “This is a wake-up call – it’s not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status.”

He said that with “proper intervention and training”, improvements could be made, even in older children.

Dr Emese Nagy, from the University of Dundee, said that it was a “pioneering” study which could aid understanding of how environment could affect brain development.

She said: “Children who grow up in a different environment may have very different early experiences, and may process information differently than children from a different environment.

“The study showed that low socioeconomic status children behaved exactly the same way as high socioeconomic status children, but their brain processed the information differently.”

(Republished from iSteve by permission of author or representative)
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Steve Sailer
About Steve Sailer

Steve Sailer is a journalist, movie critic for Taki's Magazine, columnist, and founder of the Human Biodiversity discussion group for top scientists and public intellectuals.

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