Feeds

Brainscan boffins build blunder-warning hat

'Danger, Prime Minister! Do not trust the economist!'

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Brain brainboxes in America and the Netherlands have come up with two significant pieces of research this week. Doubt is cast on any hopes for an early recovery from the present global economic crisis: but then a ray of light appears from another direction.

Magnetoencephalogram (MEG) scanner in action

A clue as to why the economy is in the toilet?

The gloomy news comes from Atlanta and Holland, where scientists have been monitoring people's brains using magnetic imaging while the subjects were receiving financial advice from experts - rather as though they were finance ministers or heads of state being briefed on how to cope with econo-meltdown.

It turns out that the process of being spoken to by finance experts has terrible effects on the human brain. According to Gregory Berns of Emory University and his collaborators:

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in a study to determine the neural mechanisms involved in financial decision-making under risk when a financial expert gives advice.

Study findings show that expert advice suppresses areas of the brain responsible for making value judgments. Conversely, those regions of the brain show activity when outside advice is not involved in the decision-making process.

Berns, professor of "neuroeconomics", says that in effect the brain reliquishes responsibility while being advised by experts.

"The problem with this tendency," says the prof, "is that it can work to a person's detriment if the trusted source turns out to be incompetent or corrupt."

Uh-oh.

Other brainbox brainboxes, however, offer news of a development which could counteract this chilling syndrome. Dutch and US-based researchers, scanning other volunteers' bonces using magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanners, believe they have detected a particular brainwave pattern which signals when people have taken their eye off the ball and are about to make a major mistake.

"What I was looking for was the state the brain is in before a mistake is made," says Ali Mazaheri, now of the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain and formerly at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior in the Netherlands.

Mazaheri and his colleagues believe that MEG machines could be set up to automatically spot when a given human brain had switched into neutral and was about to fluff it bigtime. They envision this kit being used at air-traffic controllers' consoles, for instance; but in light of the economic-decisions news out of Atlanta it would seem that such gear might be even better employed at global summit meetings and the desks of finance ministers - particularly whenever briefings by experts are on the cards.

If miniaturised somewhat into the form of a portable battery-powered hat (according to the pic it is still rather cumbersome) the blunder-warning machine could issue an audible warning whenever an important decision-maker was about to plunge us all into trouble.

The Atlanta neuroeconomics developments are published here (free), and the blunder-warning research here (subscription). ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.