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Inside the Brain Machine

Apr 11 2016

I climbed onto the narrow bed that jutted out in front of the MRI machine. “How do you feel?” asked Dr. Andrew Newberg, the neuroscientist in charge of the experiment. “Great!” I said over-brightly, like I was about to receive a spa treatment rather than a brain scan.

In reality, I was nervous. The machine was sealed behind an air-tight door with thick safety glass and emergency warning lights. And some of Dr. Newberg’s preparatory questions had been a little unnerving:

“Have you ever had a pot explode while you’re cooking?” he’d asked. He was concerned I might have some residual fragments of metal in my eye. “In the magnetic field, it would tear through your eyeball.”

I lay back and stared at the ceiling. The fluorescent light panels had been fitted with transparencies showing a blue sky framed by cherry blossoms. I appreciated the attempt to cheer the patient up, but the image looked so radiantly perfect that it made me think about the afterlife.

There's nothing wrong with you, I told myself, this is just a psychology experiment.

I shivered. The machine’s giant doughnut was filled with liquid helium, supercooled to 450 degrees below zero. Dr. Newberg draped a white sheet over me, which added warmth, but made me look like a corpse. Then he retreated to the control room. I heard his voice in my headphones.
“Ready to go?”

Read the rest of Neil's post on Medium.

  • Neil Stevenson

    IDEO Alum
    Neil Stevenson is on a mission to understand creativity and find new ways to enable and encourage it in others. He's particularly interested in how the slowly-evolving human brain interacts with the rapidly-changing tech environment we live in, and the strange and wonderful new behaviors that emerge as a result.