Mind Reading - Scientists Are Getting Better at It

10 March 2002


Scientists are getting better and better at mind reading. Armed with a brain scanner they can find out just what is going on in your grey matter. And they are discovering the answers to all sorts of burning questions. Here are just a few:Why can't you tickle yourself?Apparently it's all to do with a small area at the back of the brain called the cerebellum. Scientists at University College London found that the cerebellum lit up when volunteers tickled themselves, but not when a robotic tickling device was used. They think that this killjoy area of the brain sends out messages to cancel out sensations that it is expecting. In this way we can ignore routine sensations like pressure on our feet when walking, but react when something unexpected happens like stubbing a toe. Why don't bilingual people get tongue-tied?Scientists have also looked into the brains of bilingual people to work out why they don't muddle their languages. They have found that bilingual brains react differently to words than brains that only know one language. The bilingual person doesn't have separate storage areas for each language, but has a special filter in the brain which automatically rejects words of the language that it is not speaking. Do animals dream?Eavesdropping on the brains of sleeping rats has confirmed what you might have suspected when watching your cat having a nap...that animals do have dreams. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston monitored the brain activity of rats as they ran along a maze to find food and found a unique pattern of activity. When they listened in on the brains of rats during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of their sleep, half of the rodents showed these same patterns- the animals were dreaming of the maze.


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