The magnetically shielded chamber’s steel door makes a faint click when it closes. The outside world is somewhere beyond the thick wall of copper, bronze and iron; inside there is absolute quiet.
Faces, houses and then faces again flicker on a board. Pictures of a woman with blond hair, a bearded man, and a bungalow quickly change and blur. The experiment in magneto-encephalography begins. It measures the magnetic fields generated by neuronal activity of the brain and takes about two hours.
The laboratory is in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research in the heart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) near Boston. Using a helmet fitted with 306 sensors, neuroscientists are trying to map thought pathways to find out where and how the human brain processes information.
U.S. universities and research institutes have ramped up their efforts to decode the human brain and map neuronal activity since President Barack Obama initiated the BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) project early in 2013.