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We like to believe we're in control of everything we do,
everything we think and everything we feel.
But scientists are discovering that at every moment of our lives,
an unseen presence is guiding us all.
Now, they're exploring the secret world of your unconscious mind.
It's why we feel a certain way, why we think a certain way,
it's why we are the way we are.
Long associated with dark desires,
the real nature of the unconscious is becoming clear.
The unconscious, it's not a primal, unruly, animal thing.
It's, in fact, one of the most sophisticated things we have.
New experiments are now revealing that what you think you do
and what you really do can be very different.
Most of the time we're on cruise control.
From what you eat to who you love,
your unconscious can actually call the shots.
And because it is so powerful,
scientists are finding ways to harness its hidden potential.
If you think that the internet and Facebook have caused a revolution,
wait until you see what happens when we really understand the human brain.
If you think you're really in control of your life,
you may have to think again.
A normal street in a normal town.
But there's more here than meets the eye.
Each day, life whirls around you in a hectic blur.
So just stop.
Take a moment.
Have a proper look around.
It really is a busy, cluttered world out there.
How much of all this are you actually aware of?
Scientists are trying to find out.
They're investigating the limits of how much anyone can consciously take in at once.
We have a sense of seeing this continuous world
that's unravelling continuously around us.
And that's probably not what we're picking up from the world at all.
For example, we move our eyes about five times a second -
incredibly rapid eye movements.
It's probably the fastest movements that our bodies can make,
these ballistic eye movements.
What we're really doing is taking snapshots every time we glance at something
and in between, where the world would be whizzing by our retinas, we're blind.
And then if we look within a given snapshot,
you think, at least within a given snapshot this is the world and I sense it,
but when we try to get down and measure what a person actually takes in in any given glance,
it's hard to estimate.
Finding out how much someone can take in from the snapshot
of a single glance can reveal their brain's ability.
-OK, George, do you want to take a seat?
It's a subject being studied in the University of Oxford's Brain and Cognition Laboratory.
We're going to try not to squish your head
so let me know when you touch.
Graduate student George is today's guinea pig.
I think you're there, yeah.
I'm also going to give you this fibre optic response pad.
Using these four shapes on screen,
today's test will find out how much George can consciously take in.
He'll have 200 milliseconds, the duration of single glance,
to remember the shapes' positions.
Just one will then reappear
but its orientation has changed.
George's task, based on that brief glimpse,
is to choose whether it's been rotated left or right.
This is how it first appeared.
In this case, it was rotated to the right.
By doing this, we'll be able to compute how many of these four objects
he was actually able to hold in his mind.
Try it yourself.
Remember, you have to decide whether the object that reappears
has rotated left or right from its original position.
Not easy, is it?
Most of us would probably think before an experiment like that
that any one of us can hold four simple coloured shapes in mind
and be able to respond about them after a second.
In fact, we see that not to be the case.
George had to hold in mind the position of just four shapes.
He couldn't do it. He couldn't even manage three.
Averaged over the test, he remembered 2.8.
This figure represents the approximate number of things
that George's brain can consciously deal with at any one time.
And this result is typical for everyone.
This simple screen contains more things
than you can consciously handle.
Your conscious mind can cope with no more than two or three tasks at once.
So it just shows us how amazingly limited our perceptual awareness is
even once we've stripped down the world to, you know, an absurd level.
So take another look around.
Even now, there's more going on than you can consciously take in.
The sense that you're aware of everything occurring around you
is nothing more than one of life's greatest illusions.
But if your conscious mind can deal with only a fraction of the things that happen to you each day,
something else must be responsible for all the rest.
And this is where the hidden processes
of your unconscious mind come in.
Often associated with dreams and repressed desires,
the unconscious is now starting to reveal its true power.
But how big a role do scientists think it plays in your life?
Imagine that sheet of paper represents everything the brain can do,
how much do you think is conscious and how much is unconscious?
Wow. That's an interesting question.
How much is conscious and how much is not conscious?
You're not serious.
Now that's a very tricky thing to do.
That is very interesting.
I guess, if I had to guess...
..I would say that if this is everything the brain can do...
..about this much...
Erm, I would say maybe something like that.
Out of the whole bit of paper.
I would say about this much is conscious.
So if this whole sheet of paper was...? OK.
I will probably draw something small in the middle like that
to represent the conscious bit.
I have no idea.
Scientists agree that the role played by your conscious mind
is much smaller than previously thought...
..which raises a puzzling question.
Are you in control of your unconscious
or is it in control of you?
To find out, scientists need to reveal the strategies it uses to guide you.
The problem is, unconscious strategies are shrouded in secrecy.
Here in Ohio, Dr Dennis Shaffer is attempting to reveal them
in an unusual experiment.
He has spent his career investigating the hidden workings of the unconscious mind.
The strategies that are used by the brain,
we're typically not consciously aware of.
There's a huge discrepancy between the strategies that we use
and, kind of, our conscious expectations of those.
These volunteers don't realise it,
but Dennis will be comparing what they consciously think they do
with the real strategies at work in their unconscious minds.
And, to do it, he'll be using...
What you're going to be doing today is chasing this toy helicopter.
We're going to put this video camera over your head
so we get the perspective of what you're seeing.
Each participant believes they have their own personal strategy for catching the helicopter.
The question is, is this what's really going on in their heads?
First up, Trish. Her strategy is speed.
As far as key strategy, I'd say you've got to focus on
keeping your eye on the helicopter and keeping a steady speed.
Next up, Sid. His strategy is all about positioning.
My strategy's to make sure each time it moves,
I move just as quickly to stay below the helicopter.
For Keith, it's all about angles.
You've got to get it right on its angle of approach towards the ground,
looking at the whole line of the arc.
So do these personal strategies represent what's actually happening in their unconscious minds?
Dennis now has enough head camera footage to find out.
So what we're doing is identifying where the helicopter is positioned
relative to the background scenery from the pursuer's perspective.
Having chosen a background point for reference,
Dennis marks the helicopter's position
and then advances the video a few frames.
The helicopter's new position is now recorded.
The process is repeated,
gradually mapping what the flight path of the helicopter
looked like to the pursuer throughout the entire pursuit.
Despite the random path taken by the helicopter,
a pattern soon begins to emerge.
What this shows is that what the pursuers are doing is moving in such a way
so as to keep the toy helicopter appearing to move
relative to the background scenery in a straight line.
Remarkably, the exact same results are seen in every single person,
regardless of the apparent chaos of their pursuit.
As the helicopter moved, each of them adjusted their position
so that, to them, it appeared to fly in a straight line
against the background scenery.
'From an outside appearance they may be running in different paths,
'but the one constant is that they keep the toy helicopter
'appearing to move in a straight line.'
A beautifully simple, unconscious algorithm
hardwired into the head of every pursuer
is responsible for getting them to the right spot.
THEY APPLAUD AND WHISTLE
This is not something that they're consciously aware that they're doing.
It's all about patience.
And you can demonstrate that just by asking them how they do it.
Keeping a steady speed.
And it's not going to match up to this at all.
Go criss-cross, feet over feet.
So, although you might think you're conscious of everything you do,
this experiment reveals that your unconscious is often in control...
employing its own rapid, efficient strategies
to guide your every step through life.
But how does your unconscious make these split-second decisions?
For scientists, it's a complex question.
So, for help, they're turning to creatures
that might display the same characteristics
as the neurons which make up the brain.
At little over 2mm long, rock ants don't amount to much on their own
but their collective decision-making behaviour
is providing insights into the sophisticated way
that your unconscious mind might work.
What we can do with these ants is...
we can hold an entire ant colony in a small Petri dish, like this,
and we can think of each individual worker as an excitable, activatable unit
and that has a parallel with neurons in our brains,
that are units that are wired together
that get more and more excited and can excite one another.
But studying the similarities between ant decision-making
and the workings of the brain is no easy job.
To do this, ants need to be identifiable...
..and that means each one needs to be given
a microscopic radio tag "rucksack".
It's is an intricate task.
Each ant is anaesthetised before the radio tag is glued to its back.
These transmitters, just half a millimetre across,
will allow each ant to be tracked.
Tagging complete, the entire colony is now presented with a momentous decision -
choosing a new home.
Right, so what we have to do is bring in the colony
that is going to have to make the decision
and they've been living very nicely in this microscope slide nest
and essentially what we're going to do is be a little bit beastly to them
but not too much, we're going to actually have to
destroy this nest by taking off the roof.
So, in a flash, this colony will be homeless
and they'll have to find a new nest.
So, there I go...
..and all of a sudden there are draughts racing in there
and they, you know, howling gales
from the perspective of an individual ant,
and they're spilling out in all directions,
looking for a new place to live.
The ants' search will take them to the other end of the arena,
where Professor Franks has placed two alternative new homes.
Each has a laser radio tag reader over the door
to monitor which ants visit.
But the similarities end here.
The left-hand nest is darker - a more likely choice for the ants.
So, we're trying to give them a very obvious and simple choice
between a really good nest and a rather mediocre one
and we'll see how they perform.
It doesn't take long for individual ants to discover particular nests,
but how do they collectively decide which is best?
The colony's dilemma represents the instinctive, split-second choices
which your unconscious faces each day.
To solve the problem,
the ants now start working together democratically,
just like neurons,
to reach a consensus on the best possible decision.
If an ant likes what it finds,
it returns to the old nest to recruit a follower,
which it leads back to the new site.
Here, the second ant will conduct its own independent survey.
So, basically, you've got two populations that are being recruited,
one to this particular nest
and the other population to the alternative.
As the experiment progresses,
the population of ants in favour of the darker nest snowballs.
By sharing information, the ants are building up a group picture
of their surrounding environment.
Soon they're finding so many other ants in the darker nest
that they pass a threshold, the quorum threshold,
and the group decides that this must be the best choice.
This will be their new home.
When it comes to decision-making, the wisdom of the crowd prevails.
In ant colony and brain, it's a wonderfully efficient system.
In both systems, you can have these populations
growing up to a particular threshold,
a sort of quorum threshold, if you will, where it's a tipping point,
where the whole system will change from one behaviour to another.
Most remarkably of all, both systems can vary the threshold
based on the urgency of the decision.
'The quorum isn't fixed, it's beautifully flexible,
'they can lower the threshold in an emergency'
or they can raise the threshold when they've got all the time in the world,
it's a beautiful decision-making system.
This ability to weigh up the pros and cons
as everything changes around you
is one of your unconscious mind's most vital skills.
Yet even this only scratches the surface of how it shapes your life.
Because every day your unconscious can resort to the slyest of tricks.
Wherever life takes you,
your unconscious will be subtly shaping the illusion that you call reality.
Take a place like this, a world of temptation.
Now you know that life's little luxuries come with a health warning
but chances are you indulge anyway,
all the while remaining optimistic about your future well-being.
Dr Tali Sharot wants to know why.
'Think, for example, about eating food that's not good for you,'
like these lovely cupcakes, or smoking, or unprotected sex.
All of these examples are examples in which people act in a way
that's maybe rewarding for them at present
but can be very harmful in the future.
It seems we're all optimists.
Despite the risks, we just carry on anyway.
From health to finance, to how we drive,
negative information doesn't really sink in.
'We go through life experiencing heartache and failure'
but still we remain optimistic and that's a great puzzle.
How is it that we remain optimistic in the face of reality?
To find out why takes scientists deep into the machinery of the mind.
And finally, I'm going to put this on top...
Today, Tali is using a brain scanner
to find out why we ignore so much of the negative information that comes our way.
OK, Tom, so, we're about to start the experiment now.
To do this, she'll be asking volunteer Tom
to predict his chances of experiencing
a selection of 80 different negative events in the future.
So, we're recording Tom's brain activity and what you can see here
is actually what Tom is looking at in the scanner, through his mirror.
For example, he will see the word "cancer",
and then he will have to estimate how likely it is
that he will suffer from cancer in his lifetime.
Tom reckons his chance of cancer is 18% and types it in.
OK, so, now, we're going to show him the average likelihood
of suffering from cancer, which is about 30% in the Western world.
Tom has a moment to realise that he's underestimated his chance of cancer -
he's been too optimistic.
He's then presented with the next of the 80 negative events.
With each one, he again gives his prediction
before finding out the real statistic.
When he reaches the last of the 80 events,
the same list is repeated and he has to predict his chances again.
'And what we're interested in,'
is whether Tom is going to use information that we gave him,
in order to change his beliefs.
Each time this experiment is performed,
the results are most surprising.
So what we found was that when you give people positive information about the future,
for example, you tell them
that their likelihood of suffering from Alzheimer's is lower
than what they thought, they take on board the information.
We all tend to update our views about the future
when we receive new information suggesting things will turn out better for us than we thought.
'However, when you give people'
negative information about the future,
for example, if they believe that their chances of suffering from Alzheimer's is only two percent
and we tell them, well, the average is much higher than that,
for example, it's ten percent, so this is negative information,
they don't change their beliefs
and they stick to this very optimistic view of the world.
The scans show that the part of the brain
that considers negative information about the future
seems to malfunction.
The part that deals with positive information
appears much more active.
It suggests that your brain wilfully ignores negative things
and maintains a rose-tinted and inaccurate view of the world instead.
It looks like the brain is not doing what it's supposed to be doing
but the reason that our brain tricks us
is because if we expect positive events in our future,
stress and anxiety is reduced and that's good for our health.
And there's another reason too.
'I think if we expect to get ahead, if you expect the gold medal,'
that motivates you to put in the effort to train,
'you know, for four years before the Olympics, for example.
'So, you might, at the end, not get the golden medal'
but the idea is that you need to expect the gold medal
in order to get the silver.
'And so it acts as a motivation.
'And that's why, I think, the brain has evolved to become optimistic.'
This in-built tendency to optimistically ignore starkly obvious risks
has been essential to our success as a species.
If you think about things such as our ancestors deciding to go
out of Africa and exploring the rest of the world,
in order to explore something new,
you have to imagine that there is something out there for you to find.
Something novel, and something better than what you have now
because otherwise there is no need to go and discover other parts of the world,
or even other parts of the universe.
This is one of the most ingenious tricks of the unconscious.
By making you view the world through rose-tinted glasses,
it keeps you striving for a better future.
Taken together, the latest discoveries are starting to reveal
that the sense you're consciously in control of everything you do
is just an illusion.
It's a sophisticated and intricate one but it's no luxury,
it's a necessity
because your very survival has long depended upon everything
that your unconscious does for you behind the scenes.
It's something that scientists are investigating in Oxford.
Taking part is GY, a volunteer who wishes to stay anonymous.
When he was young, his visual cortex,
the part of the brain that deals with vision,
was damaged in an accident.
In both eyes he's partly blind.
He's able to see only to the left, not the right.
'I don't actually see anything in my blind field.
'It's a very strange phenomena.'
Yet today's experiment will attempt to show something remarkable
that, in the areas where he's blind,
GY is somehow, instinctively, able to see.
What I'm going to do is to present a stimulus
moving upwards or downwards in GY's blind field
and I'm simply going to ask him to indicate
whether the stimulus moves up or down.
'Now, this is a stimulus which he's unable to see.'
Although GY can't consciously see the moving shape,
he is required to guess which way it moves.
After a number of trials, some compelling results come through.
He was right on 37 out of 40 trials in that run,
which is an extremely significant result.
Erm, so what this shows is that,
despite the fact that he's clinically blind,
he's capable of discriminating the direction of motion
of something that's moving in his blind field.
This ability is known as blindsight.
I don't actually see anything move at all,
it's just an awareness of movement
and I can detect the direction it goes in.
That sounds really weird, doesn't it?
Somehow, GY experiences movement,
even though he can't properly see it himself.
I always refer to it as a "visual experience,"
but I don't actually see anything.
Just, I know something and I don't know what, has gone up or down.
So where does GY's blindsight stem from
and why does this ability exist?
It all comes down to the remarkable construction of the brain itself.
With one hundred billion neurons connected by over
one hundred trillion synapses,
the human brain is immensely complicated.
So this is what a human brain looks like.
This is the front, this is the back, two cerebral hemispheres.
And if we want to understand what's going on in blindsight,
I need to show you a specimen that's been dissected already.
And this is the inner surface of the hemisphere.
And this region here is the primary visual cortex,
which is the area that's damaged in blindsight.
By interpreting signals flowing from the eyes,
the visual cortex allows us to see the outside world.
If it's damaged, like in GY, these signals aren't registered,
even if the eyes are still working.
But there is another, older, visual pathway from eyes to brain.
As it turns out, only about 90 percent of the fibres
leaving the eye terminate in the primary visual cortex.
The remainder of the fibres
head off to other centres in the brain.
Most important of these is the superior colliculus,
which you can see just here.
Its name belies its size.
In humans, the superior colliculus might be tiny.
But in evolutionary terms, it's always been vital.
In many other creatures it's one of the brain's biggest structures,
geared to rapidly orienting the eyes toward sudden movements.
This evolutionary remnant
is where GY's blindsight is thought to come from.
Despite not being able to properly see,
he retains a primal awareness of sudden movements,
a sense that something is there.
We need to not only be able to identify
what's out there in the visual scene, but where they are.
Because in the case of a predator,
ultimately we need to take evasive action.
GY's blindsight helps to show
that in the human brain's long history,
the unconscious preceded the conscious mind,
but it wasn't replaced by it.
It's still there today, hidden from view,
but still on the lookout for danger.
But there's another thing that the unconscious does for you each day.
Take all those complex skills you've perfected in life.
The truth is that once you've got the hang of them,
you barely have to concentrate on them at all.
They've become automatic, and unconsciously controlled.
How this happens is one of neuroscience's biggest mysteries.
And the place to solve it is here.
The problem for Professor Julien Doyon
is that little of what you learn in life can be done in a brain scanner.
Obviously you have only 60 centimetres in the scanner,
and so it's very difficult to study motor movements,
for example, movements like in golf or a tennis movement,
one cannot do that in the scanner.
The changes that happen inside your brain as you learn new,
automatic skills, are clearly not easy to study.
But a chance conversation with an old friend led Julien
to a most unusual solution -
At the time, we were actually carrying on a conversation
like this, and he saw me knitting.
'I said to her,'
"It looks like this movement is completely automatic for you.
"You basically do your movements and you're able to talk."
And then he said, "Oh, this would be a great activity to use,
"but if you were in the scanner, you'd have to lie there,
"very, very still, not move your shoulders and knit
"lying on your back. Can people do that?"
And I said, "Well, any knitter who's automatic can do that!"
But simply seeing into the mind of an experienced knitter wasn't
enough to reveal how the process of learning a new skill occurs.
What Julien needed was a way of comparing how the brain
performs automatically with how it works when it's starting to learn.
It was a rather tricky task.
'But then Rhonda told me something very important, she said,
'"There are two approaches to knit,'
"and if I try to knit with this other approach,
"this other technique, that would be like starting again,
"I would need to think about the movements that I have to make,
"and learn from scratch."
For Julien, this was a revelation.
And so began one of the most
colourful experiments in neuroscience history.
Today, Julien will be scanning Rhonda's brain as she knits.
So Julien's going to give you the needles...
She will start with the style of knitting she's been doing
since she was a child,
and which is now completely automated in her unconscious mind.
We're all ready to start, we're going to go to the other side.
OK, Rhonda. How are you?
'I'm fine, very relaxed.'
OK, I'm going to ask you to produce
knitting movements for about 30 seconds.
OK, here we go...
So, here Rhonda is producing movements which she has been
practising for years that are completely automatic for her.
Data soon starts appearing on screen.
And we can see that there is a lot of activity in the striatum.
As Rhonda knits, the striatum, deep in the brain,
coordinates her complex automated movements.
It's a wonderfully streamlined process.
But what the team wants to see is what happens
when the learning process begins.
If we were then asking her to do the knitting
with a technique that she's not familiar with then we'd see
perhaps a very different pattern of activity.
The team now runs the test one more time.
-Here we go.
OK, so we're starting to see some activity
in the primary motor cortex.
And you're starting to see some activity
in both sides of the cerebellum, as well.
We think that those regions at the beginning are important
to try to figure out what's the best way to produce movements.
When you learn a skill, from knitting to juggling,
multiple parts of your brain, especially the cerebellum,
work hard to coordinate your new movements.
But as you practise, something profound occurs.
The architecture of your brain starts to change.
New, efficient neural networks form, a process known as plasticity.
It's one of neuroscience's biggest discoveries.
So, while you might find the process of learning hard, with perseverance,
your unconscious mind will rewire itself to share the load.
When the movements are completely automatic, it allows us
to free up our attentional demands for other activities.
And so now we can pay attention to other things that we want
to do in life.
By automating complex actions like this, your unconscious
frees your conscious mind, and makes you who you are.
The discovery of plasticity represents a new era
in our understanding of the human brain.
It reveals the power of the unconscious to adapt
and form new connections.
But scientists are wondering whether this power can get out of control.
It's something that doctors are researching
in a rather pleasant and exclusive laboratory.
One of America's finest golf courses, here in Arizona.
They're studying the curse of many experienced golfers...
The yips is a symptom which golfers describe in which
they get a twisting, a twitching, a jerking movement during
the time of putting, and less than a second before actually
striking the ball, the involuntary movement occurs.
This uncontrollable twitch can stop the most experienced players
sinking the simplest putts.
Expert golfer Tom Wilcox knows this only too well.
I've been a golf professional for 40 years
and it certainly has been a problem in competitive situations
because when you get the yips, you literally
can feel a little jerk in your hands,
and you can feel it affect the blade of the putter,
and the ball goes off line, or goes too far,
or doesn't go far enough, so obviously that's more strokes,
and they pay money for low scores, not for high scores in golf.
For years, the yips has been thought of simply
as golfers crumbling under pressure.
But Dr Adler suspects that there might be more to it
than choking in the heat of competition.
His research here has taken him
deep into the mysterious workings of the brain itself.
-Make a muscle.
Today, Dr Adler and his assistant, Luann,
are attempting to see if the yips might be caused
by the brain getting out of control.
We're going to record from wrist flexor, extensor, bicep,
tricep and deltoid.
First they wire up Tom, to monitor the messages his muscles
receive from his brain.
I'll be a bionic golfer, right?
They're looking for a tell-tale signal
which might reveal the problem.
What I would like you to do is slip on this CyberGlove.
Last on is a sophisticated glove which will record
Tom's exact wrist movements as he putts.
And what it does is, it allows us to measure movement
at all of the different joints, to look at what happens
to finger movements and hand movements during the putting stroke.
It's, er, not exactly how I normally dress for golf,
so I suspect that this is going to be an interesting
feeling when I get to putting.
The glove shows Tom's exact hand position,
it will reveal any twitches as he putts.
Good, and move the wrist.
For the next half-hour, Tom putts repetitively,
to build a picture of the signals flowing from his brain.
It's an elusive little thing, isn't it?
-Do you feel anything?
-I did that one.
Often, as Tom attempts to make a putt,
there is a distinct twitch in his wrist.
That was nasty.
This research is only new, but the hypothesis,
based on evidence from other studies, is that in some golfers,
the yips may be caused by faulty wiring in the brain.
The suggestion is that the neural networks which form during
the initial process of learning new skills can start to go wrong.
A condition known as a focal dystonia,
in which the rogue brain connections cause involuntary movements,
a bit like Tom's twitch.
There may be some abnormal wiring within the brain,
in which the brain is perceiving things differently
than one would normally perceive, and causing muscles
to contract involuntarily.
The unconscious, it seems, doesn't always behave itself.
But as scientists begin to understand how it works,
they're starting to wonder whether it's possible to rewire it
and solve the problem.
Guitarist Douglas Rogers hopes so.
In the 1970s, he was one of Britain's top classical guitarists,
playing concerts worldwide.
But like golfers with the yips,
he began experiencing involuntary, unconsciously-controlled
hand movements which derailed his career.
I missed the first finger, there...
To solve this problem,
he's come to University College London
to try a radical new treatment.
It seems to get more and more unreliable...
Dr Mark Edwards, an expert in movement disorders,
is going to try treating Douglas, by attempting to access
the hidden depths of Douglas's brain.
So everything's a mess...
When you make a movement,
the brain usually activates one muscle
and actively turns off other muscles,
that's why we can make very precise movements,
that's something called surround inhibition,
it's a very useful thing for everybody,
but particularly for playing a musical instrument.
And we know that that process seems to go wrong
in people with hand dystonia.
So what we're going to try and do
is to deliberately turn up this mechanism in the brain,
that should inhibit movements that you don't want.
To do this, the team attempts to teach Douglas's brain
how to increase the inhibition signal it sends to his hand
as he performs a simple task just pushing a button.
When he moves, a device resting against his hand vibrates.
So what we're doing now is giving some vibration
to a surround muscle, so it's like boosting
the error signal to the brain, saying,
"Look, this muscle is contracting and it shouldn't be,
"so try and suppress it."
So we're trying to train the brain to turn on the muscles that should
be turned on, and actively turn off the muscles that should be
turned off, and that way we're letting
better control happen in the hand.
Over the coming weeks, they'll be doing this multiple times
to help build up Douglas's surround inhibition response.
But today, the team plans to try an even more cutting-edge treatment.
Transcranial direct current stimulation.
So what we're doing is stimulating the cerebellum, back here.
So that's the bit of the brain that's involved
in motor learning and motor function in general.
The theory is that motor memories normally remain
securely locked in the brain.
But by recalling these memories,
by having Douglas play the guitar, they will become vulnerable.
So this is a transcranial direct current stimulator.
And these are the wires that are attached to
the pads on Douglas's scalp, and I'm just going
to plug those into the box, to get the stimulation going.
Direct electrical current is now flowing through Douglas's cerebellum
to try to disable the rogue neural networks causing his dystonia.
The aim is to induce plasticity in his brain
returning it to a similar state it was in
when he first learnt to play.
We know from recent research that memories
when they're stored in memory are fairly solid,
they're fairly secure, but when they're recalled
they go into quite a vulnerable state, actually quite similar
to what happens when you're originally laying down the memory.
So if we get Douglas to play in the way that produces
the abnormal movement he has with his thumb,
maybe if we're giving some suppressive
brain stimulation at that time, it might suppress the memory.
This is the first time this technique has been used
to treat a musician with dystonia.
It's a dramatic show of just how far our understanding
of the unconscious brain has come.
We're now at this very exciting stage where we're
not just bystanders, just looking at what the brain is doing,
we can actually interact with it, we can stimulate bits,
we can turn bits up, we can turn bits down.
And it's starting to yield results,
and it's starting to give us real insights
into how we might try to fix some things in some quite precise ways.
But if you think that none of this affects you, think again.
Because the unconscious mind holds such potential
that scientists are now asking if they can harness its immense power.
Every hour of every day, your brain is flooded with images.
You can only concentrate on a few at once, but all the while,
your unconscious will be automatically filtering
this visual deluge.
The human brain is really an amazing machine,
it's an amazing system.
I mean, one of the really intriguing things about the brain
is that we're able to take this visual chaos and clutter
and then find salient information in that scene that matters to us,
that generates this, "Ah-ha, wait a minute, I should look over there."
Using its own powerful internal code, your unconscious decides
which information is worthy of your conscious attention.
There are essentially these signals that are labelling the world,
what we like to call neural signatures
or neural markers that are saying, "That might be worth exploring,
"that might be interesting."
Harnessing these signals could change how we cope
with the data overload we all face in the 21st century,
a prospect raising the interest of the US military.
In war zones, enemy bases can be hard to spot.
To find them, the military rely on satellite images.
Hunting through these is a slow
and monotonous task that can't be done automatically by computer.
An image analyst might have to look at a very large aerial image,
for instance here, an image that's
tens to hundreds of square kilometres.
The question is, "Where do I look in this image to find buildings,
"to find objects of interest?"
But by tapping into the power of the brain,
Professor Sajda thinks this process can be dramatically shortened.
One thing we might want to do is,
instead of scanning this image from the upper corner down,
have a more intelligent search that's based on little regions
that grab our attention.
To do this, the satellite image is randomly separated
into hundreds of sub-images.
A few show buildings, which is what Professor Sajda hopes to find.
He will rapidly view all the sub-images
while his brain response to each one is recorded with this EEG cap.
This is an electroencephalography cap, it allows us to detect signals
that would be related to what we would call an "ah-ha" moment,
we see something of interest, it catches our attention,
it generates, "Ah-ha, that's important to me,"
and that information is transmitted from this cap
to a computer which analyses it to label imagery.
This is mind-reading, 21st-century style.
To begin with, Professor Sajda looks at a sample image
containing a building.
The computer registers his resulting neural "ah-ha" signal.
What we're interested in doing is finding the patterns
that are related to this "ah-ha" signal, and then use that
pattern of activity to rank all the images that I'm going to see.
With brain and computer now linked, the sub-images from
the large satellite picture start flashing up on screen.
So what I'm doing now is looking at a whole barrage of images,
five or ten a second, and while I'm doing that my brain
is decoding that information and using it to label the images.
So when you're looking at these images, the best thing to do
is actually relax.
You get in to a zone where your brain just does the work.
Professor Sajda is not immediately aware of any images of buildings,
but his brain activity suggests something very different.
Back in the main lab, the results appear on screen.
What you see actually is a tiling of the entire image,
where each of these little squares is actually
one of the images as it was flashed.
They're colour-coded based on the ranking
that was computed from my brain activity.
So, essentially, how strong was the "ah-ha"
when you saw that particular image?
So, regions that are marked in red are very strong,
they grabbed my attention, in dark blue are less engaging.
This little tile here is actually the most highly ranked image.
This is a close-up of that particular region.
What you can see here is this is basically a compound.
There are roadways, there's obviously a building,
some man-made structure.
So, the real gain here is that instead of moving through
this large image very laboriously, I can now jump
from image to image, or location to location,
based on what grabbed my attention.
By tapping into his own brain,
Professor Sajda has increased his image-spotting efficiency
by 300 percent.
It's a breakthrough, not just for military image analysts,
but for everyone.
From interacting with computer games, to advertising,
to revolutionising the analysis of medical images,
the ability to harness the power of the unconscious
heralds a bold new future.
The true nature of your unconscious mind is now becoming clear.
Far from being the lowly, primal thing of popular imagination,
your unconscious turns out to be
the sophisticated centre of everything you ever do.
When it comes down to it,
your brain runs mostly unconsciously, on autopilot.
And by tapping its immense power,
you might one day change your life for ever.
The human brain is really an awesome thing,
I mean, from the engineering and technology point of view,
understanding the brain will ultimately lead us
to areas that we can't imagine.
I mean, if you think that the internet
and networking and Facebook have caused a revolution,
wait until you see what happens when we really understand the human brain.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd