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I don’t know how exactly I fell in love with neuroscience, just that “The Brain!” was my favorite episode of Bill Nye, that I’d invariably perk my ears up during sleepy car rides whenever I heard neuroscience being discussed on NPR, and that I’d huddle next to my mother’s computer as she watched neuroscience-related continuing education videos.
I can pinpoint, however, the day I decided I wanted to be a neuroscientist. I was eleven years old, listening to Science Friday’s Ira Flatow interview a neuroscience researcher who could, quite literally, read minds. She would put participants in an FMRI machine, show them an image, and based on the activity in their brain, identify which picture they were looking at. Listening, I wanted desperately to be a part of this science that sounded so much like magic. So I did what anyone would do and I begged my mother for an FMRI as my birthday present.
The answer, of course, was no, but my passion for neuroscience remained. I longed to understand this field, at once so unfathomably undiscovered and so fundamentally applicable to everyday experience. In the next six years, I learned everything I could about the brain, about the axons, dendrites and neurotransmitters that create the mind. Eventually, I got my MRI, participating in three brain studies myself. I read article after article about neuroscience and referenced them incessantly. To me, everything seemed related to the brain.
Last summer, when I landed my first gig working in a neuroscience lab, I helped to pilot a study using real-time FMRI, the same “mind-reading” technology that captivated me years earlier. Even now that I can understand the computational modeling behind it, name each neural network it measures, and see just how it “reads” the mind, it still feels like magic.
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