Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Deciphering hidden pattern reveals brain activity

March 29, 2011

The algorithm to find an efficient route through a complicated, connected network can be used to decode patterns in the brain (credit: Rachel Ewing)

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have shown that the mathematics used to find an efficient route through a complicated, connected network can be used to decode how the brain represents information, says Geoffrey K. Aguirre, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology.

The researchers developed an algorithm using a de Bruijn sequence, a set of things  — letters, pictures, or sounds, for example —  in a cyclic order such that every possible “word” or combination of things occurs only once.

Aguirre and colleagues presented a series of faces in different combinations and orders to subjects, as dictated by the de Bruijn sequence, to measure the brain response to each face individually. While the person in the experiment saw random pictures hiding in a seemingly random sequence, there was a signal invisible to the person that was decoded by an fMRI scanner. The researchers were able to measure the nerve cells’ response to that hidden pattern and then use it to understand how the brain is representing information.

The next step is to apply the new algorithm to actual fMRI studies of visual perception and representation in the brain, says Aguirre.


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