|September 10, 2013
Ben Harvey, lead author of the study explained: “When we see a small number of items visually, we don’t need to count them. We just know how many there are straight away.”
It appears to Harvey’s team that the “better you are at number sensing, Harvey says, the better you tend to do on standardized mathematical tests. This part of the brain — and the ones nearby — is active when you do math and solve equations, as well.”
Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the team was able to scan for patterns in the participant’s brains. Then the high-field (fMRI) was used to facilitate observable details about brain activity and neural responses.
It was then that the researchers noticed that the posterior parietal cortex was responsive which proved that the brain recognizes patterns in organized ways.
Harvey said that “the brain was acting like an abacus” which meant it was mapping the numbers in one area instead of counting them to come up with a literal number.
This experiment confirms that humans have an innate ability to “sense numerical qualities”; meaning that some people can determine how many of something is in front of them without counting the objects.
Harvey said : “There are maps on the brain that represent the surface of the skin – or the surface of the retina. These all reflect an external organ. We found the first map for a cognitive function. For seeing, there’s more neurons that process the center of the field vision, where you have very sharp vision. For touch, you have huge hands mapped onto the brain, but smaller ones for legs.”
In May, Obama devoted $100 million in taxpayer money to fund the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) project. The National Institutes of Health (NIH); DARPA; and privately funded institutions such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the Kavil Foundation (KF), and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies (SIBS) will share in the initial $300 million Obama set aside to kick off the project.
To understand the brain, how it functions, how the neuro-network connects, the NIH has brought together researchers and scientists from the Rockefeller University and Stanford University will assist in creating a human brain blueprint and co-chair the governmental council that oversees the entire project.
BRAIN was initially called the Brain Activity Map (BAM) project.
Its goal is to: “Imagine if no family had to feel helpless watching a loved one disappear behind the mask of Parkinson’s or struggle in the grip of epilepsy. Imagine if we could reverse traumatic brain injury or PTSD for our veterans who are coming home. Imagine if someone with a prosthetic limb can now play the piano or throw a baseball as well as anybody else, because the wiring from the brain to that prosthetic is direct and triggered by what’s already happening in the patient’s mind. What if computers could respond to our thoughts or our language barriers could come tumbling down. Or if millions of Americans were suddenly finding new jobs in these fields — jobs we haven’t even dreamt up yet — because we chose to invest in this project.”
According to a white paper entitled, “The Brain Activity Map Project and the Challenge of Functional Connectomics”, BRAIN would facilitate research that would allow wireless applications for the human brain as well as possibly give governmental access to targeting specific populations.
The study states: “This emergent level of understanding could also enable accurate diagnosis and restoration of normal patterns of activity to injured or diseased brains, foster the development of broader biomedical and environmental applications, and even potentially generate a host of associated economic benefits.”
Indeed, the BRAIN project will allow the government and private entities to define mental illness, neuroscience and psychiatric disorders. This will redefine society, families and individuals from predictive measures to treatment in “acute” stages.
BRAIN is expected to include certain initiatives:
• Key investments to jumpstart the effort: The National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Science Foundation will support approximately $100 million in research beginning in fiscal year 2014.
• Strong academic leadership: The NIH will establish a high-level working group co-chaired by Dr. Cornelia “Cori” Bargmann of The Rockefeller University and Dr. William Newsome of Stanford University, to define detailed scientific goals for the NIH’s investment, and to develop a multi-year scientific plan for achieving these goals, including timetables, milestones and cost estimates.
• Public-private partnerships: Federal research agencies will partner with companies, foundations and private research institutions that are also investing in relevant neuroscience research, such as the Allen Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Kavli Foundation and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
• Maintaining our highest ethical standards: Pioneering research often has the potential to raise new ethical challenges. To ensure that this new effort proceeds in ways that continue to adhere to our highest standards of research protections, the president will direct his Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to explore all ethical, legal and societal implications raised by this research initiative and other recent advances in neuroscience.