Oct 2, 2009

The Discovery Files: Mind Scans (Learning English with Science)

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Audio transcript:

I Think I'm Having a "Where's Waldo"1 Moment.

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Looking for a friend in a crowded room? Are you likely to scan the room, moving from face to face? Or take in the whole scene, hoping your friend's face will pop out at you? If you said, "scan the room," neuroscientists2 at MIT would likely agree, based on a new study.

The researchers monitored brain activity of monkeys, who were given the task of finding a certain tilted colored bar on a computer screen filled with many colored bars. Rather than looking at the big picture, the monkeys shifted their attention in sequence -- like a moving spotlight that jumped from location to location.

The team found that the spotlight shifted focus 25 times a second and that the shifting was regulated by brain waves. It seems these waves may provide a clock that tells the brain when to shift attention from one stimulus to another. They might also keep different parts of the brain on the same page at the same time -- much the way computers use an internal clock to synchronize3 the different components inside.

The scientists say that if we could find ways to direct brain waves, it could be of immense4 help to patients with A.D.D.5, even speed up the cognitive powers of the brain.

Or help me find my keys.

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The Discovery Files



1. Where's Waldo
It’s a game. The intent is to find a man named Waldo. For more information, visit the following link:

2. neuroscientist/ˋnjυroˏsаɪəntɪst/
A scientist who studies the brain and the nervous system

3. synchronize /ˋsiŋkrənаɪz/[intransitive and transitive]
To happen at exactly the same time, or to arrange for two or more actions to happen at exactly the same time.
-- Colourful flashing lights synchronize the sound.

4. immense /ɪˋmɛns/
extremely large [= enormous]
--Regular visits from a social worker can be of immense value to old people living alone.

5. A.D.D.
= Attention-Deficit Disorder

5.1 Deficit /ˋdɛfɪsɪt/
The difference between the amount of something that you have and the higher amount that you need.

5.2 disorder /dɪsˋɔrdɚ/[countable]
[medical] A mental or physical illness which prevents part of your body from working properly.

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