Brain imaging a promising method for predicting future behavior, study finds

What if teachers could predict a child’s special needs and develop a unique educational program in advance? And what if doctors could know whether a psychiatric medication would worsen or improve a particular patient’s symptoms?

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have compiled dozens of studies that suggest analyzing data from brain imaging, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), may one day help scientists make these predictions— and more. Their review, which features medical research from the past 14 years, includes findings that link specific neuromarkers to a person’s likelihood of participating in criminal activity, an individual’s potential success with a drug or alcohol treatment, and someone’s likelihood of developing a certain talent over his or her lifetime.

“Seventy or so studies have reported positive findings that analyzing brain measures beforehand can considerably improve knowing whether a person will be successful at something,” lead study author John Gabrieli, a neuroscience professor at MIT, told FoxNews.com. “In many areas in medicine or education it’s purely a guessing game.”

Brain imaging is a noninvasive method for measuring brain activity. For example, fMRI— the primary brain imaging method used in the review studies— measures brain activity associated with changes in blood flow that occur in response to neural activity. The review also includes studies that use electroencephalography (EEG), a measurement of electrical activity in the brain that is gathered by recording from electrodes placed on the scalp.

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