Using a combination of artificial intelligence and brain scanning technology, scientists are hoping to forgo more traditional therapies used to help people overcome their fears, such as aversion therapy, but the repercussions of a seemingly helpful method of removing unconscious material from the brain might result in some rather colorful results.
The scientists developed a way to read and identify a fear memory using a new technique called Decoded Neurofeedback. They utilized brain scanning to monitor activity in the brain, and identify complex patterns that resembled a specific fear memory. In the experiment, a fear memory was created in 17 healthy volunteers by administering a brief electric shock when they saw a certain computer image. When the pattern was detected, the researchers over-wrote the fear memory by giving their experimental subjects a reward.
Artificial Intelligence to Alter How the Brain Responds to Fear
One of the authors of the study, Dr. Ben Seymour, explains,
“The way information is represented in the brain is very complicated, but the use of artificial intelligence (AI) image recognition methods now allow us to identify aspects of the content of that information. When we induced a mild fear memory in the brain, we were able to develop a fast and accurate method of reading it by using AI algorithms. The challenge then was to find a way to reduce or remove the fear memory, without ever consciously evoking it.
“We realized that even when the volunteers were simply resting, we could see brief moments when the pattern of fluctuating brain activity had partial features of the specific fear memory, even though the volunteers weren’t consciously aware of it. Because we could decode these brain patterns quickly, we decided to give subjects a reward – a small amount of money – every time we picked up these features of the memory.”
The experiment continued for three days, wherein the volunteers were told they would receive a certain amount of money but that it depended upon their brain scans. They were not told how the brain scans would equate to their financial reward, and could not ‘consciously’ change what was happening.
Nonetheless, activity in the brain’s fear center, the amygdala, did indeed change, and the typical skin-sweating response that can be measured to see if someone is fearful, disappeared.
The brain essentially learned how to reprogram itself to predict something positive, instead of expecting the negative response of the shock, thus overcoming the fear of that shock.
The doctors want to build a library of brain information codes for various things that people are fearful of and that might create a pathological fear – for instance – of spiders, or riding in an elevator. They say that in principal, patients could have a regular session of decoded neurofeedback to gradually reduce their fear response that certain memories trigger.
Scientists are trying to use AI to override emotions, instead of bringing them to the surface so that they can be released. Since there are hundreds of thousands of neuronal cells that fire when we have any memory and all our memories are intertwined with each other, there are instances that removing a fear wouldn’t necessarily positive in the long term.
Also noteworthy, is the fact that certain groups in support of transhumanism would like to override all natural phenomenon in the body. There are already plans for an artificial immune system, and DARPA can already hack our peripheral nervous systems (the network of nerves on the outside of our brains and spinal cords, to facilitate the development of cognitive skills) with Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT), plausibly to turn people into super soldiers who can override the typical physical reactions of fear, or hack foreign intelligence and cryptography with greater acumen.
Training the body to be superhuman, and the mind to overcome all fear is not inherently bad. This is, in fact, part of the quest of spiritualists seeking ascension, but how we do this, and who we give the keys to our minds, is paramount. The importance of guarding our emotions – all of them – and our physical intelligence has never been more vital.
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