The Data Age

Big Data and Living in an Age of Data

The Data Age - Big Data and Living in an Age of Data

Your Brain at Work – New tools and Approaches have already Produced New Insights

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When Apple fanatics lined up to get the new iPhone in 2011, the New York Times published an op-ed titled “You Love Your iPhone. Literally.” It described an unpublished experiment in which the author scanned the brains of 16 people as they heard and watched audio and video of ringing or vibrating iPhones. The scans showed activity in the insular cortex—an area that activates when someone experiences love. “Subjects’ brains responded…as they would respond to the presence or proximity of a girlfriend, boyfriend, or family member,” the author wrote. “They loved their iPhones.”

Dozens of neuroscientists cosigned a letter to the Times condemning the article, noting that one-third of all neuroimaging studies reveal activity in the insular cortex. It’s active when people sense temperature changes or even just breathe. In fact, in 2007 the Times itself had published an op-ed showing that the same area of the brain was engaged when subjects felt the opposite of love. Titled “This Is Your Brain on Politics,” the article linked activity in the insular cortex to disgust and asserted that it was particularly strong in men who saw the term “Republican.” Scientists wrote a letter protesting that article, too.

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