Carly Lane
July 03, 2015 11:05 am

The human brain is undoubtedly complex. While there’s so much we’ve been able to learn and understand about it over the years, there’s even more that has yet to be discovered.

Some of it we may not even learn within our lifetimes — but new research has shown that our brains have the ability to react to very specific images differently.

According to Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Director of the Centre for Systems Neuroscience and the Head of Bioengineering at University of Leicester, it makes sense to view the human mind as “the activity of neurons.” When your neurons are firing, your mind is typically responding in a certain way.

Quiroga compares this to the movie Inception, in which memories are implanted into the mind in order to influence a chain of events. “So, if the mind is nothing more than the firing of neurons, we should be able to alter their activity to influence behaviour,” he writes on The Conversation. “Or conversely, we should be able to alter behaviour – like implanting a memory or a thought – and track down how this is matched by changes in the firing of neurons.”

In recording these changes, there have actually been unique neuron responses to specific images, or concepts. Researchers actually call these the “Jennifer Aniston neurons” because they were able to pinpoint the exact neurons that responded to seven photos of actress Jennifer Aniston but not to any other photos of actors or places. Pretty cool, right?

Eventually, this same team was able to find different neurons that fired when the subject was shown a photo of Halle Berry or the text of her name — and even another set of different neurons responded when the subject was shown a photo of Oprah Winfrey!

Research has also shown that this can also help the brain make connections between two different concepts. They tested this by creating a composite image of a celebrity and a famous place — for example, Josh Brolin standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. While the subject might have been reacting to them individually, once they remembered seeing both together the respective neurons would fire to both person and place.

Admittedly, Quiroga says that being able to implant memories Inception-style is still a long ways off — but the work that’s being done right now is really helping researchers to understand how memories are formed in the mind. Who knew celebrity selfies were this powerful?

Check out more on Quiroga’s research, here.

[Featured image NBC.]

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