This Is Your Brain: The Guided Tour – Do-It-Yourself Neuroscience

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Narrator: Let’s take a moment to see how the “Backyard Brains” program works with actual teenagers. Here’s Dr. Gage giving a TED talk in 2015…

Greg Gage: (fade up) Alright, so I need a volunteer. What is your name? Sam, I’m going to record from your brain. Have you had this before? Okay, I need you to stick out your arm for science….

Narrator: Dr. Gage attaches two peel-and-stick electrodes to Samantha’s arm…

Greg Gage: Go ahead and squeeze your hand. Alright… So this is your motor units are happening right here? Well, you have about 80 billion neurons inside your brain right now. They’re sending electrical messages back and forth and chemical messages. But some of your neurons right here in your motor cortex are going to send messages down. When you move your arm like this. Going to go down across corpus, close down onto your spinal cord, your lower motor neuron out to your muscles here. And that electrical discharge is picked up by these electrodes right here. And we’re going to be able to listen to exactly what your brain is going to be doing. Do you guys want to see some more? All right. Okay. I need one more volunteer. What is your name, sir? Miguel. So it turns out that there is a nerve that’s right here that runs up here, that innervates these three fingers and it’s close enough to the skin that we might be able to stimulate that so in a sense, she will take away your free will and you will no longer have any control over this hand. Okay, you with me. Alright, so I need to hook you up.

Alright? So I’m going to find your Ulnar nerve, which is probably right around here and I’m going to plug it in to our human-to-human interface over here It’s going to feel a little bit weird at first. This is going to feel like when you lose your free will and someone else becomes your agent, it does feel a bit strange. I want you to relax your hand.

So now, are you ready, Miguel? Ready as I’ll ever be. Okay, so I’ve turned it on. So go ahead and turn your hand. Do you feel that a little bit?

Narrator: As Samantha moves her hand, Miguel’s hand also starts to move…

Greg Gage: I do it again a little bit. Okay? So relax. So hit it again. (audience gasps) Oh, perfect. Alright, so relax. Do it again. (laughter) Alright. So right now, your brain is controlling your arm and it’s also controlling his arm. So go ahead and just do it one more time. (audience gasps in amazement) Alright? That’s perfect. So now what would happen if I took over my control of your hand? And so just relax your hand?

Narrator: Dr. Gage takes Samantha’s hand and moves it for her…

Greg Gage: What happens? Nothing. Why not? Because the brain has to do it. Now you do it again. (audience gasps again) All right? That’s perfect. All right.(applause) Well, thank you, guys for being such a good sport. This is what’s happening all across the world, electrophysiology, and we’re going to be on the Neuro Revolution! Thank you!

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