Scientists are heralding a breakthrough in brain scan technology after a team at Oxford University produced full colour images of a human brain that shows nothing of any significance.
‘This is an amazing discovery’, said leading neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, ‘the pictures tell us nothing about how the brain works, provide us with no insights into the nature of human consciousness, and all with such lovely colours.’
The images, produced using Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, reveal a vibrant range of colours including red, green, yellow and blue. ‘The brain isn’t really this exciting,’ explained Professor Greenfield, ‘it’s actually quite a dull grey – we just added the colours to help jazz it up.’
Scientists created the images by scanning the brains of subjects while they were watching a television weather forecast. ‘We know that the human brain automatically switches off during the weather,’ explained Baroness Greenfield, ‘usually at precisely the moment the forecaster is talking about your region. These scans capture that moment of mental ‘nothingness’ in full and glorious detail.’
The development, which has been widely reported around the world, is also significant because it allows journalists to publish big fancy pictures of the brain that look really impressive while having little or no explanatory value.
‘These scans are fantastic,’ said Lawrence McGinty, Science Editor for ITV News, ‘not only are they bright and colourful but the graphics department have even converted them into 3D and can make them spin around the screen while I stand in front waving my hands about. None of this helps to explain anything, but it does it so much better the old black and white pictures. They were rubbish.’
The scans were also welcomed by neurologist Professor Oliver Sacks, best-selling author of The Man Who Mistook his Brain Scan for a News Story. ‘These images provide us with the best picture yet of nothing much going on inside the human head. I particularly like the way different regions of the brain light up for no apparent reason. It's so cool.'
‘We are actually making some great progress in understanding how the brain works,’ assured Professor Greenfield, ‘but that usually involves graphs, numbers and complicated things. We will work it out eventually, but in the meantime it’s nice to have some pretty pictures to look at.’