The Caroline Werner Gannett Project 2007-08
Christopher deCharms

Christopher deCharms

Neuroscientist; serial entrepreneur; founder of life-sciences company, Omneuron


“Imagine your own brain with real time fMRI while seeing your imagining”

When: Monday, April 19, 2010 at 8:00PM
Where: Webb Auditorium (James E. Booth Memorial Building 7A)

Talk Description:
Neuroscientist Christopher deCharms is helping to develop a new kind of MRI that allows doctor and patient to look inside the brain in real time -- to see visual representations of brain processes as they happen. With his company Omneuron, deCharms has developed technology they call rtfMRI, for "real-time functional MRI" -- which is exactly what it sounds like. You move your arm, your brain lights up. You feel pain, your brain lights up. He asks: How could we use the ability to see our brains in action? For a start, to help treat chronic pain with a kind of biofeedback; being able to visualize pain can help patients control it. And longer-term uses boggle the mind. Ours is the first generation, he believes, to be able to train and build our minds as systematically as a weightlifter builds a muscle. What will we do with this?

Christopher deCharms is a neuroscientist, serial entrepreneur, author, inventor and founder of Omneuron, a life sciences company focusing on novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies. DeCharms has developed a set of technologies allowing patients, physicians, researchers, and subjects to visualize and control the functioning of the brain using non-invasive methods based on real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI), and is exploring applications of functional brain imaging. DeCharms began his research career in neurophysiology at the Kick Center for Integrative Neuroscience where his work included recording patterns of brain activation from multiple locations in the brain, exploring how these patterns of activation underlie perception, experience and learning.

DeCharms and a team of collaborative researchers have explored whether people can learn to control patterns of activation taking place inside their own brains. It had not previously been possible to non-invasively measure brain activation in real time using neuroimaging, but recent advances in computation and neuroimaging have made this a reality using rtfMRI. Subjects' brain activation patterns are measured using real time fMRI as the subjects watch from inside the scanner using virtual reality goggles, and subjects are trained to control the patterns of activation inside their own brain. This in turn leads to changes in the subjects' mental experiences. Research on rtfMRI-based training has been published in the scientific literature and has also been broadly covered in the popular press including The New York Times, BBC, NPR, Wired, and Technology Review.

deCharms and fMRI patient:

deCharms at TED:

Links: Two Views of Mind: Abhidharma & Brain Science