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The New Mind Readers: What Neuroimaging Can and Cannot Reveal about Our Thoughts

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A revealing insider's account of the power--and limitations--of functional MRI The ability to read minds has long been a fascination of science fiction, but revolutionary new brain-imaging methods are bringing it closer to scientific reality. The New Mind Readers provides a compelling look at the origins, development, and future of these extraordinary tools, revealing how t A revealing insider's account of the power--and limitations--of functional MRI The ability to read minds has long been a fascination of science fiction, but revolutionary new brain-imaging methods are bringing it closer to scientific reality. The New Mind Readers provides a compelling look at the origins, development, and future of these extraordinary tools, revealing how they are increasingly being used to decode our thoughts and experiences--and how this raises sometimes troubling questions about their application in domains such as marketing, politics, and the law. Russell Poldrack takes readers on a journey of scientific discovery, telling the stories of the visionaries behind these breakthroughs. Along the way, he gives an insider's perspective on what is perhaps the single most important technology in cognitive neuroscience today--functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which is providing astonishing new insights into the contents and workings of the mind. He highlights both the amazing power and major limitations of these techniques and describes how applications outside the lab often exceed the bounds of responsible science. Poldrack also details the unique and sometimes disorienting experience of having his own brain scanned more than a hundred times as part of a landmark study of how human brain function changes over time. Written by one of the world's leading pioneers in the field, The New Mind Readers cuts through the hype and misperceptions surrounding these emerging new methods, offering needed perspective on what they can and cannot do--and demonstrating how they can provide new answers to age-old questions about the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human.


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A revealing insider's account of the power--and limitations--of functional MRI The ability to read minds has long been a fascination of science fiction, but revolutionary new brain-imaging methods are bringing it closer to scientific reality. The New Mind Readers provides a compelling look at the origins, development, and future of these extraordinary tools, revealing how t A revealing insider's account of the power--and limitations--of functional MRI The ability to read minds has long been a fascination of science fiction, but revolutionary new brain-imaging methods are bringing it closer to scientific reality. The New Mind Readers provides a compelling look at the origins, development, and future of these extraordinary tools, revealing how they are increasingly being used to decode our thoughts and experiences--and how this raises sometimes troubling questions about their application in domains such as marketing, politics, and the law. Russell Poldrack takes readers on a journey of scientific discovery, telling the stories of the visionaries behind these breakthroughs. Along the way, he gives an insider's perspective on what is perhaps the single most important technology in cognitive neuroscience today--functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which is providing astonishing new insights into the contents and workings of the mind. He highlights both the amazing power and major limitations of these techniques and describes how applications outside the lab often exceed the bounds of responsible science. Poldrack also details the unique and sometimes disorienting experience of having his own brain scanned more than a hundred times as part of a landmark study of how human brain function changes over time. Written by one of the world's leading pioneers in the field, The New Mind Readers cuts through the hype and misperceptions surrounding these emerging new methods, offering needed perspective on what they can and cannot do--and demonstrating how they can provide new answers to age-old questions about the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human.

30 review for The New Mind Readers: What Neuroimaging Can and Cannot Reveal about Our Thoughts

  1. 4 out of 5

    Morteza Ansarinia

    The book is "great", if you are into neuroscience and cognitive science. Unlike some similar psychology books, in which repetitious, standard, and classic psychological experiments are presented, It's full of refreshing examples. Without putting too much effort to prove every scientific finding, the author shows how most of the times science can also go wrong. The author seems not liking other kinds of imaging methods, rather than fMRI (like EEG/MEG, PET, and fNIRS). But overall, the whole book c The book is "great", if you are into neuroscience and cognitive science. Unlike some similar psychology books, in which repetitious, standard, and classic psychological experiments are presented, It's full of refreshing examples. Without putting too much effort to prove every scientific finding, the author shows how most of the times science can also go wrong. The author seems not liking other kinds of imaging methods, rather than fMRI (like EEG/MEG, PET, and fNIRS). But overall, the whole book can be read without considering the fMRI itself. It's about brain and how we can see it through brain imaging lenses. The book is like a blog, categorized in 9 chapters, each one contains several, well, posts (1-2 pages long). So it's easy to read. But it's really hard to write a book for general audience about fMRI and brain, two yet-to-be-known topics. The author, to me, was successful though. Here is the last sentence of the book, in which the author refers to the basal ganglia (my personal favorite part of the brain), and striatum; both described simply in the book when he talks about decision making: "Whether [...technologies for higher temporal and spatial resolutions...] will happen within my lifetime is not a prediction that I would want to put money on, but perhaps my ventral striatum knows better than I do." Overall, it's a must-read for cognitive science enthusiasts.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Never encountered such enthusiasm about cross validation in print. As if he just discovered the holy grail of statistics ((: Computational psychiatry looks like one of the most promising and interesting fields within current science. Patients with mental disorders deserve better.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jackie

    A mostly lively introduction to fMRI technology, which may not sound lively to you unless you just LOVE brains (no, not like a zombie), or you teach neuropsychology and you have found plenty of explanations that put students to sleep. One lovable thing about this author, a Stanford University professor, is that he scanned his own brain 104 times over an 18 month period, also collecting blood samples, to study how his brain functioning changed from day to night and from day to day and over a long A mostly lively introduction to fMRI technology, which may not sound lively to you unless you just LOVE brains (no, not like a zombie), or you teach neuropsychology and you have found plenty of explanations that put students to sleep. One lovable thing about this author, a Stanford University professor, is that he scanned his own brain 104 times over an 18 month period, also collecting blood samples, to study how his brain functioning changed from day to night and from day to day and over a longer period, and he also released that data for others to study. Now that's commitment to science. We are learning more and more about the relationship of brain physiology to who we are as humans, largely due to advances in the technology of brain imaging. It's fascinating to me.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Edgar Guevara

    A great book about neuroimaging, decision making and decoding. Mainly focused on fMRI this book reads at a swift pace if you are into medical imaging, perhaps not so much for the lay reader. Although it focuses almost completely on fMRI, I do not think this is a weakness, but rather a choice of the author to write about what he knows best. The basics of some other modalities, such as EEG, MEG and fNIRS are outlined, albeit not much discussed. One strong point is the impartiality towards fMRI, in s A great book about neuroimaging, decision making and decoding. Mainly focused on fMRI this book reads at a swift pace if you are into medical imaging, perhaps not so much for the lay reader. Although it focuses almost completely on fMRI, I do not think this is a weakness, but rather a choice of the author to write about what he knows best. The basics of some other modalities, such as EEG, MEG and fNIRS are outlined, albeit not much discussed. One strong point is the impartiality towards fMRI, in spite of basing his whole career on this technique, Dr. Poldrack is very aware of the limitations, as well of the advantages of this "mind-reading" method. The only drawback I find is that the index is really lacking many terms and important names in the field. If you do not take notes, it will be difficult to find that page that talks about the ventral striatum and decision making.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Dan

    Through neuroimaging, we can decode neuronal activities and read minds with relatively good precision (e.g., what one is visualizing). How is it possible? Here are some features noted in the book. The firing of neurons is relatively localized across the brain. Brains are organized in a relatively similar way across individuals. The firing of neurons results in changes in blood flow that happen in a localized fashion. However, here is a catch. The scope of prediction is not limitless, and such predic Through neuroimaging, we can decode neuronal activities and read minds with relatively good precision (e.g., what one is visualizing). How is it possible? Here are some features noted in the book. The firing of neurons is relatively localized across the brain. Brains are organized in a relatively similar way across individuals. The firing of neurons results in changes in blood flow that happen in a localized fashion. However, here is a catch. The scope of prediction is not limitless, and such predictions are highly individualized and temporal. We have limited technology, albeit we are making improvements. We all have different brains. The structure of the brain includes the "software," and the brain changes through experience. We have different brains as much as we have diverse experience. Not only that, brains change over time with the new experience. The brain is a complex system where there is no simple one-to-one mapping between psychological states and activity in specific brain areas. Neurons in certain regions would fire due to many reasons. Neuroimaging measures neuronal activities with low resolution and measurement errors in relation to time (temporal delay) and space (spatial resolution). Many variables (e.g., holding breath) cannot be controlled, and they cause noise in the measurements. The resolution, although very low compared to neuron fibers or speed of action potentials, results in big data, which contributes to the statistical challenges. "If thinking is just a biological function that we can visualize with MRI, then what becomes of the mystery of human consciousness?" This is a great question to ask, but we do not need to worry. We will probably know more about our brain and us going forward, but I believe the awe and wonder of our consciousness will remain.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bharath Talluri

    A nice introduction into neuroimaging, the history associated with this technique, and the potential it has to offer neuroscientists. Ideal for naive readers, who I presume are the target audience, but has little to offer if you are already a neuroscientist.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Adam Osth

    Gives an interesting overview on fMRI methods and what questions it can and can't answer. A lot of this was review for me from my graduate school fMRI class and I would imagine most researchers up on some issues in cognitive neuroscience won't be learning a lot here. At the same time, this likely won't be a very interesting read for those who don't do research for a living and Poldrack's writing isn't quite up to the kind of accessible level of science journalism that would make it an interestin Gives an interesting overview on fMRI methods and what questions it can and can't answer. A lot of this was review for me from my graduate school fMRI class and I would imagine most researchers up on some issues in cognitive neuroscience won't be learning a lot here. At the same time, this likely won't be a very interesting read for those who don't do research for a living and Poldrack's writing isn't quite up to the kind of accessible level of science journalism that would make it an interesting read for your mom or dad.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Neil H

    Writing from diverse sources, demystifying and clarifying the confirmation bias scientists themselves may be prone to. Russel P write with a intimacy that avoids the dry and all so often cited popular narratives. Using his own fMRI experiments (on himself nonetheless)he has made a clear case readers need to acquaint ourselves with and that is to be clear headed about the fallacies of falsely attributing causal effects with determinate outcomes. We can takes steps to understand the mind and/or th Writing from diverse sources, demystifying and clarifying the confirmation bias scientists themselves may be prone to. Russel P write with a intimacy that avoids the dry and all so often cited popular narratives. Using his own fMRI experiments (on himself nonetheless)he has made a clear case readers need to acquaint ourselves with and that is to be clear headed about the fallacies of falsely attributing causal effects with determinate outcomes. We can takes steps to understand the mind and/or the brain. But each step advanced reveals more questions.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adam Calhoun

    I'm not quite sure who this book was written for, because it occupies a weird niche: too technical for a lay reader but not quite novel enough for an expert. Still, it provides a lot of history and context that even a neuroscientist would not know. For instance, did you know that the first 'brain imaging' used mechanical implements in the 1880s?? Worth going through if you are a neuroscientist, might be a bit much if you are not. I'm not quite sure who this book was written for, because it occupies a weird niche: too technical for a lay reader but not quite novel enough for an expert. Still, it provides a lot of history and context that even a neuroscientist would not know. For instance, did you know that the first 'brain imaging' used mechanical implements in the 1880s?? Worth going through if you are a neuroscientist, might be a bit much if you are not.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Elliot Ludvig

    Good, clear introduction to the science. Very up-to-date with current issues, such as the replication crisis, open science, and machine learning methods. Didn't dwell on minutiae, unlike many neuro books--was good at staying at the abstract level. Too much of the "great man" (or woman) take on the science, where each new development was attributed to one (or a small group) of individuals, instead of the large-scale collaborative efforts they actually are. Good, clear introduction to the science. Very up-to-date with current issues, such as the replication crisis, open science, and machine learning methods. Didn't dwell on minutiae, unlike many neuro books--was good at staying at the abstract level. Too much of the "great man" (or woman) take on the science, where each new development was attributed to one (or a small group) of individuals, instead of the large-scale collaborative efforts they actually are.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    This book does address the subtitle "What neuroimaging can and cannot reveal about our thoughts". However, the tone was a bit to chatty for my taste. It wasn't so much a survey of current research as lists of names of researches and discussions of the flaws in scientific analysis and short on the actual science. A little too Ted Talk for me. This book does address the subtitle "What neuroimaging can and cannot reveal about our thoughts". However, the tone was a bit to chatty for my taste. It wasn't so much a survey of current research as lists of names of researches and discussions of the flaws in scientific analysis and short on the actual science. A little too Ted Talk for me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Hirko

    Great short non-fiction piece looking at the history and current practice using fMRI's. Interesting study: in 2012 during his tenure here at UT Austin he took multiple fMRI scannings of himself over the course of a year to see how the brain changes over time. It's only been replicated a handful of times, but it is interesting to hear about analyzing the vast differences in a brain from day to day rather than solely using the traditional analysis between subjects from one scan or comparing groups Great short non-fiction piece looking at the history and current practice using fMRI's. Interesting study: in 2012 during his tenure here at UT Austin he took multiple fMRI scannings of himself over the course of a year to see how the brain changes over time. It's only been replicated a handful of times, but it is interesting to hear about analyzing the vast differences in a brain from day to day rather than solely using the traditional analysis between subjects from one scan or comparing groups of 'healthy' vs 'unhealthy' brains. Lots of other great studies and information in here that de-bunk some of the fMRI myths and where the technology really is at.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Koke

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jacky Ho

  15. 5 out of 5

    Diane

  16. 4 out of 5

    Pbermudezz

  17. 5 out of 5

    David Mcnaughton

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex Loftus

  19. 4 out of 5

    Seiji

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leila

  21. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  22. 4 out of 5

    Zaki

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gaby Alvarez

  24. 4 out of 5

    Holly

  25. 5 out of 5

    Howard

  26. 4 out of 5

    Pablo

  27. 4 out of 5

    Adrian Arabat

  28. 5 out of 5

    Simon Oxen

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matthieu de Wit

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katja

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