Another one on fear, this time acrophobia. Normally I assume that everything on TV is staged for your entertainment. The wonderful Isabella Purkart who interviewed me was really, really terrified of heights. The whole show was quite an ordeal for her. At the end, she managed to climb all the 183 of the Vienna Jubiläumswarte. Not only was she rewarded with a fantastic view over our city and the Wienerwald, she also got a first hand experience how confrontation helped her to overcome her fear. Great job!
The lovely people from the brainstorms group invited me to give an online talk about predictive processing. Predictive processing theory suggests that all brain functions depend on comparisons between ongoing actual experiences and the brain’s expectations. It suggests that expectations and predictions about reality are, probably, more important than the direct live sensory evidence that the brain receives. But is it just a new data modelling method? Does it describe just one aspect of cognition? No, there is much more potential. Let us look at the loose ends of present day cognitive (neuro)science to see why we can be really excited about predictive processing.
Using our brain we predict the future based on what we have learnt in the past. But what if there is no precedence to learn from? How can we cope with lock-downs, isolation, existential crises, and fear of an unknown infection?
Covid-19 brings most of us out of their comfort zone but we are built for enduring hardships and uncertainty.
I was invited to an afternoon TV talk show to discuss my outlook on the future with social economics Prof. Marina Fischer-Kowalski, psychologist Irina Nalis, behavioral biologist Gregor Fauma and Matthias & Tristan Horx.
The brain, the cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems. According to our brains it is the most fascinating structure in the known universe. Consisting of about 86 billion neurons of which each can form thousands of connections to other neurons it is also the most complex structure in the known universe. In this course we would like to give you a rough guide and introduction to the basic principles, fundamental theories, and methods of neuroscience.
We will demonstrate that neuroscience can be seen as a multi-modal, multi-level, multi-disciplinary research framework that aims at addressing the challenges of this megalomaniac scientific endeavor. We will see that different frameworks and methods can lead to conflicting empirical evidence, theoretical assumptions, and heated debates. However, we argue that this might be the only way to uncover the mysteries of our brain.Read more about our course.
Finally, I was asked for an interview in the children’s television show okidoki. A childhood’s dream come true :) I was asked to explain what happens in the brain and the body when we are afraid. A very suitable topic for Halloween, I guess.
Anna-Lisa Schuler has been working on our CREAM data and found out that people with stronger brain connectivity of the dopaminergic midbrain also show higher levels of creativity. She did her analysis on resting state data, this means, at that time our participants did not perform any specific task. Instead, while lying inside our comfortable MRI scanner, they engaged in daydreaming. Karl Friston has called this state of mind unconstrained cognition because people are not distracted by our experimental stimuli.
Trends are not always a good thing. Sometimes trends can obscure the things that are really important. A common problem in signal processing is that measured data can be affected by signal drifts – for example, due to temperature changes in your sensor or the thing that you try to measure. To get rid of these drifts the signal can be detrended. This filtering is a standard data processing step for many applications.
However, in real-time fMRI we need to perform this detrending online, that is, while we acquire the data. This is not so trivial, so Rotem Kopel, Frank Scharnowski, and I wrote a paper about it.
We found evidence that people can upregulate their dopaminergic reward circuit using mental imagery. This works even better when they receive fMRI neurofeedback of their substantia nigra brain region. Interestingly, this also appears to work in cocaine users – at least in those without strong obsessive-compulsive drug use.
Like we showed in our study on the Aha!-moment, mentally generated feelings of reward can activate brain areas that produce dopamine. Could neurofeedback be a new form of self-guided cognitive brain stimulation?
Self-regulation of the dopaminergic reward circuit in cocaine users with mental imagery and neurofeedback. Matthias Kirschner, Ronald Sladky, Amelie Haugg, Philipp Stämpfli, Elisabeth Jehli, Martina Hodel, Etna Engeli, Sarah Hösli, Markus R Baumgartner, James Sulzer, Quentin J M Huys, Erich Seifritz, Boris B Quednow, Frank Scharnowski, Marcus Herdener. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/ebiom/article/PIIS2352-3964(18)30472-9/fulltext