Christopher deCharms is working on a way to use fMRI scans to show brain activity — in real time.

Why you should listen

Neuroscientist Christopher deCharms is helping to develop a new kind of MRI that allows doctor and patient to look inside the brain in real time -- to see visual representations of brain processes as they happen. With his company Omneuron, deCharms has developed technology they call rtfMRI, for "real-time functional MRI" -- which is exactly what it sounds like. You move your arm, your brain lights up. You feel pain, your brain lights up.

How could we use the ability to see our brains in action? For a start, to help treat chronic pain with a kind of biofeedback; being able to visualize pain can help patients control it. And longer-term uses boggle the mind. Ours is the first generation, he believes, to be able to train and build our minds as systematically as a weightlifter builds a muscle. What will we do with this?

deCharms is also the author of the book Two Views of Mind, studying Buddhist theories of perception from a neuroscientist's perspective.

Christopher deCharms’ TED talks

Christopher deCharms on the TED Blog

The brain and the banjo

October 14, 2008

Bluegrass legend Eddie Adcock had brain surgery last month to correct an essential tremor — an uncontrollable shaking that left him unable to play the banjo. During the surgery, he stayed awake to give feedback while surgeons prodded his brain, looking for the exact spot to stimulate to control the tremor. His method of feedback […]

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fMRI can tell what noun you're thinking of (sometimes)

May 30, 2008

From Not Exactly Rocket Science, here’s a thoughtful report on a new fMRI technique that — 70 percent of the time, anyway — can tell what noun a person is thinking of: Tom Mitchell and colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University [used] a technique called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to visualise the brain activity of […]

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Quotes from Christopher deCharms

People envision [looking inside the brain] as being very difficult. You had to take a spaceship, shrink it down, inject it into the bloodstream.
Christopher deCharms
TED2008 • 994K views Mar 2008
Fascinating, Informative