Tuesday, June 11, 2013

neuroscience for the people

The Video Game Helmet That Can Hack Your Brain

For brain scientists Greg Siegle and Nicole Prause, understanding the brain is really tricky, and it's especially tricky when your subjects are in the middle of sexual intercourse.

You can't, for instance, ask them to do their thing inside an fMRI machine, or with a wig of cables attached to their head. “All these brain-measuring systems have significant limitations," says Siegle, a neuroscientist who has spent more than a decade poking at the brain using all sorts of sophisticated psychophysiology and neuroimaging tools. With these, he says, “you can’t move your head very much, it costs a heck of a lot to buy, they take a long time to set up, and I could never really bring them out of the lab."

Siegle isn't ashamed to say that his answer to this particular problem is a faddish-looking toy originally geared toward video gamers. The Emotiv, which is made by an Australian company and comes in $299 and $750 flavors, looks like a cyberpunk skull cap, with 14 electrode arms that branch out from the back of your head to surround your skull. The device is a cheaper, wireless, and more user-friendly version of a standard EEG machine, the kind that scientists use to non-invasively detect the faint electrical signals in your brain, the brainwaves that fluctuate as you think and feel.

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