How does the brain control the body?
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Many psychics claim to be able to read people’s minds, but neuroscientist Jody Culham can really do it – with a little help from a machine.

The Western University professor uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to track blood flow within the brain in hopes of understanding how we can unlock our brain potential.

“What we are learning is that brain function is localized,” says Culham. “If you are using vision to identify an object, an entirely different part of the brain is used when you go to grab that object.”

While different parts of the brain are responsible for thinking and controlling movement, Culham’s research suggests that blood flow increases to both regions even when a person is just thinking about picking up an object.

“By tracking the brain signals, we can predict two to three seconds in advance of what the person is going to do,” says Culham. In essence, opening the door for using brain signals to control artificial limbs.

While much research into the brain is still in its infancy, Culham’s research has potential applications with neuroprosthetics – to improve the quality of life for people affected with loss of motor control or movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

Research in neuroscience has changed dramatically with tremendous leaps in technology that have allowed us to ask new questions: “How does the brain activation differ from one thing to another?” and “how can we decode brain signals?”

By better understanding the mechanisms of the brain, “we have the potential to change it,” she says. Culham hopes this understanding will lead to new technologies and new treatment methods fro movement disorders.

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