The New Mind Readers
What Neuroimaging Can and Cannot Reveal about Our Thoughts
Russell A. Poldrack
A revealing insider’s account of the power—and limitations—of functional MRI
The ability to read minds has long been a fascination of science fiction, but revolutionary new brain-imaging methods are bringing it closer to scientific reality. The New Mind Readers provides a compelling look at the origins, development, and future of these extraordinary tools, revealing how they are increasingly being used to decode our thoughts and experiences—and how this raises sometimes troubling questions about their application in domains such as marketing, politics, and the law.
Russell Poldrack takes readers on a journey of scientific discovery, telling the stories of the visionaries behind these breakthroughs. Along the way, he gives an insider’s perspective on what is perhaps the single most important technology in cognitive neuroscience today—functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which is providing astonishing new insights into the contents and workings of the mind. He highlights both the amazing power and major limitations of these techniques and describes how applications outside the lab often exceed the bounds of responsible science. Poldrack also details the unique and sometimes disorienting experience of having his own brain scanned more than a hundred times as part of a landmark study of how human brain function changes over time.
Written by one of the world’s leading pioneers in the field, The New Mind Readers cuts through the hype and misperceptions surrounding these emerging new methods, offering needed perspective on what they can and cannot do—and demonstrating how they can provide new answers to age-old questions about the nature of consciousness and what it means to be human.
Russell A. Poldrack is the Albert Ray Lang Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. He is the coauthor of the Handbook of Functional MRI Data Analysis. He lives in San Francisco.