Tuesday, June 25, 2002

sometimes i wonder what I'm actually measuring when I place people in the middle of room-sized magnets to have them perform various counting tasks: tapping fingerrs, counting white rectangles, 300 millisecond pulses of middle A, airpuffs to the forehead. I spent weeks designing these experiments, arranging precise order and timing, and I will spend the following weeks using complicated MATLAB sotware to perform detailed statistical analysis that will arrange the hundreds of pictures I took of each subject's brain while they were performing my carefully designed procedures.
Yet I wonder still what really goes through someone's mind when they are literally put in the middle of a humongous machine, closed in as if buried alive, directed to remain as motionless as possible--just as one might in a coffin--for an extended period of time. This isn't life. This isn't the normal working mind by any stretch.
At the moment this kind of situation is the best way scientists can think of to isolate specific events--like counting, or finger tapping, or seeing a white rectangle--and watch how the brain works on each of them.
This simplifies the multilayered workings of the brain almost beyond recognition.
Are we studying life? Why do scientists need to remove themselves thoroughly from "natural" processes in order to study them effectively?