Look look my brain

Someone took a picture of my brain:

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I was asked if I’d volunteer for an experiment that would see me lying in an fMRI scanner for 90 mins and performing various cognitive tasks. The recompense would be an image of my brain. I don’t know how quickly people normally reply to the email, but if I took more than a millisecond I’d be most surprised.

The fMRI scanner is more cramped than you might expect. You have to put earplugs in, and there’s plenty of padding around your head to stop it moving. Then you slide into a white torpedo bay, where the researcher’s disembodied voice provides instructions, and you reply in a distant can’t-hear-your-own-voice kind of way. You hear a noise that isn’t actually too loud, but is repetitive and not at all sci-fi. You look directly up into a mirror, which is angled to show a nearby computer screen, and you clutch a small box with buttons that need pressing in response to items that flash up on the screen. And then you do your best not to fall asleep.

I so nearly fell asleep. It’s quite cosy – all warm and protected. I was watching various shapes flash up on a screen, and pressing buttons related to their positions. I feel I could have done this significantly better if I hadn’t been drifting off, but presumably everyone has the same problem. I wonder if my occasional internal FOR GOD’S SAKE WAKE UPs are apparent on their data. Analysing brain scans just be a great job.

Then a couple of days later I picked up a CD with about 600 small jpeg images of slices of my brain. Some look as you’d expect, like the above. But some look a bit Prometheus:

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The whole thing was awesome. It was great to get the chance to be in an fMRI scanner for reasons not desperately unpleasant.