The Albert Ray Lang Professor of Psychology at Stanford University looks at the origins, development, and future of brain-imaging technology that is increasingly being used to decode our thoughts and experiences―and how this raises sometimes troubling questions about their application in domains such as marketing, politics, and the law.
Mr. Poldrack comes across in this accessible book as eminently levelheaded but also personable. He makes a clear argument for the scientific method ... If one wanted, one could even use this book to argue for teaching statistics instead of geometry or calculus in school. Statistical methods and mindsets are helpful every day. Causality is messy and cognition is faulty. The New Mind Readers will teach you some things about the brain. More important, it may also teach you how to use one.
In his book The New Mind Readers, Russell Poldrack addresses...tantalizing questions, presenting a clear and engaging overview of what neuroimaging can and cannot tell us about a person’s thoughts, perceptions, and intentions. Going beyond basic mechanisms, Poldrack tackles a number of fundamental questions ... Throughout the book, Poldrack presents the vast possibilities of neuroimaging while clearly articulating its limitations ... In the end, Poldrack is optimistic that the development of more specific imaging approaches should eventually enable at least a basic 'dictionary' linking specific brain activity patterns to certain thoughts, activities, or emotions.
The New Mind Readers is personal and selective. Poldrack gives short shrift to some methods, including brain stimulation, in which magnetic pulses are used to alter brain function directly to probe the specific role of the region targeted. He also skimps on neuroimaging techniques such as magnetoencephalography, which directly measures changes in magnetic fields produced by electrical signals in the brain. This is not an exhaustive account, and Poldrack focuses only on key developments and pioneers close to his own work. Yet his idiosyncratic approach is deeply engaging ... At times, Poldrack loses focus. His brief forays into topics such as the nature of mental illness are unsatisfying: they are too brief and lack the clarity of the rest of the book. Nevertheless, this is a compelling introduction that lucidly spells out the risks of taking media reports at face value, and urges readers to dig into the details.