A symposium that wraps up today in Des Moines is the third in a series that’s focusing on research of the mind. Co-organizer Jim Olds of the Krasnow Institute at George Mason University says research on the mind has changed dramatically in the last ten years. Olds says mind research used to be confined to studying lab rats.
Olds says,"We no longer need to use the laboratory rat, we actually with non-invasive brain imaging, use college sophomores, and when we scan their brains we can look at all sorts of things that are pretty relevant to how the mind emerges from the brain." Olds says unlocking the link between the mind and the brain could have a huge impact on healthcare.
He says there many diseases of the mind that "cost America dearly, in terms of both in pain and suffering of patients and also economic burdens." Olds says Alzheimer’s disease is an example of an illness that robs someone of their mind, is always fatal and involves a lot of care for patients. Olds says researchers could use the understanding of the mind as a model for machines.
Olds says "reverse engineering the mind" could be used for all kinds of practical technology. He cites as an example cars that could see into a blind spot and keep you from switching lanes to prevent a crash. The focus of the symposium called "Decade of the Mind" is to increase spending on mind research by four billion dollars over ten years. Olds says that’s a small amount of money when you look at the bigger picture.
Olds says the National Institutes of Health budget alone spends 30-billion dollars annually and four-point-seven million of that is spent on brain research. He says increasing that by 400-million a year would only be a 10-percent increase in spending on brain research. Olds says technology has allowed so many advances in mind research, but they still haven’t discovered their Albert Einstien who can put it all together.
He says they are collecting vast amounts of data, but don’t have a theory that links it all together to tell them how a mind is developed from a brain. Krasnow says this is a very exciting time to be in the field. The Great Ape Trust of Iowa is hosting the symposium, and its experts are lending their knowledge on ape research to the discussions of the human mind.