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What is fMRI and what is it measuring?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 - 06:00 AM

As Radiolab explores some of the tangents from our show on Deception, we've interviewed neuroscientists attempting to detect lies using changes in brain activity. But how do we see brain activity and get such colorful pictures of it? You might think it's based on neural electric activity. This is true for EEG but not for fMRI, which is used in the majority of these brain function studies. As Wired.com's Steve Silberman explains, it all starts with hemoglobin. Yes, the tiny protein responsible for carrying oxygen to the brain or any other organ for that matter, is the basis for studying brain activity.

To get a better sense of how hemoglobin tells us what we're thinking about, Silberman goes to Professor Joy Hirsch's lab at Columbia to see exactly what goes into these studies of lie detection.

Listen to a clip of Robert's interview with Steve Silberman at the top of the page.

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