AMAZING THINGS ARE HAPPENING ALL OVER DALLAS, BUT FEW PEOPLE ARE AWARE OF THEM. MANY TAKE PLACE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, HIDDEN DEEP WITHIN UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES AND MEDICAL BUILDINGS.
Many years ago, I worked near a research hospital in New York City that hung a giant red billboard off its skybridge. “Amazing Things Are Happening Here,” it said. The statement was presumptuous but effective. No longer would I wander past that aging structure without thinking of daring surgeries and experimental treatments.
As I drive around Dallas interviewing physicians and researchers, I think back to that sign and imagine it at local hospitals and universities.
Over the next five Saturdays, Dallas Morning News readers and members of the general public will have the chance to explore these important advances firsthand. Southern Methodist University, UT Southwestern Medical Center, the University of Texas at Dallas, UTDs’ Center for BrainHealth, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, and the nonprofit talkSTEM have partnered with The Dallas Morning News to connect the Dallas-Fort Worth community with researchers working at the frontiers of their fields. Those who register in advance will be able to visit research labs free of charge and take part in hands-on experiences created just for them.
HOW WE CAN USE BRAIN MAPPING AND VIDEO TO SOLVE PUZZLES — AND EVEN SPOT A LIAR
Many of us think that we can spot a liar by seeing classic “tells” — signs like shifty eyes, fidgety movements or smiling too much. But in lab settings, we’re often not much better than 50-50 at distinguishing liars from truth-tellers. Linda Ngyuen, a graduate student at UTD’s Center for BrainHealth, wants to understand if we’re better at spotting liars by reasoning it out or going with our gut.
To find out, she had subjects watch videos of people, some of whom are lying and others who are not. There were two groups: One was asked to reason out whether the speaker was lying, and the other group was distracted with an unrelated task before being asked to quickly make a decision about whether the speaker was lying or not. Preliminary results indicate the latter group, which had to make a gut-level decision because of the added task, were better at spotting deception than those who thought it through. Nguyen also wants to use neuroimaging to peer into the brains of the subjects to see if we process deception differently.
Nguyen’s fellow graduate student, Michael Lundie, also wants to suss out how the brain processes situations differently. He focuses on understanding how our brains generate creative solutions to problems. Are eureka moments ethereal events that just come to us by chance? Or can we train our brains to make them more likely?
Lundie draws on research that imaged the brains of people thinking through puzzles that required out-of-the-box thinking. When the subject had the eureka moment, an area in the left prefrontal cortex lit up. Lundie is investigating whether certain training exercises designed to boost creativity might activate this same area, and potentially make those eureka moments a little more common. — Jonathan Lambert
The Center for BrainHealth will host an open house on March 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Meet the scientists and explore how the brain works and ways to enhance the way you think, learn, work and live. Admission is free with advance registration. Ages 10 and up.
March 8, 2019