What we’re learning from 5,000 brains

Read Montague is interested in the human dopamine system — or, as he puts it in this illuminating talk from TEDGlobal 2012, that which makes us “chase sex, food and salt” and therefore survive.

Specifically, Montague and his team at the Roanoke Brain Study are interested in how dopamine and valuation systems work when two human beings interact with each other.

“We have a behavioral superpower in our brain and it at least in part involves dopamine,” says Montague in this talk. “We can deny any instinct we have for survival for an idea. No other species can do that.”

So how do we assign value to ideas, process the gestures of those around us, make complicated decisions, and create informed judgments about each other? Montague’s lab hopes to discover much more about how these processes work by “eavesdropping” on the brains of 5,000 to 6,000 participants all over the world as they play negotiation games. It’s fascinating research that could tell us more about our social nature. Because as Montague says, “You often don’t know who you are until you see yourself in interaction with people who are close to you, people who are enemies to you, and people who are agnostic to you.”

Source: TED blog

A map of the brain

How can we begin to understand the way the brain works? The same way we begin to understand a city: by making a map. In this visually stunning talk, Allan Jones shows how his team is mapping which genes are turned on in each tiny region, and how it all connects up.