I Watch 3 Episodes of Mind Field With Our Experts & Researchers

(soft music) (eerie sound) – Hey Vsauce! Michael here. Every episode of Mind
Field is now free to view all over the world, all 24
episodes, all three seasons. Whoa! It is really exciting. And it’s why I’ve invited you
hear to Vsauce headquarters. Why watch Mind Field alone
when you could watch it with me and some of the researchers,
writers, scientists and teachers who
are in the episodes who made Mind Field what it is? That’s right, we are about to have ourselves
a Mind Field marathon. We are going to watch three
episodes in their entirety, pausing throughout
to talk more deeply about the concepts
in the episodes, it’s gonna be very exciting, and it’s all going to happen
right in here, follow me. After you. (eerie sound) We’re going to begin
with an episode that helped new research
happen and improved the lives of some very special children. Season Two, Episode Six,
the Power of Suggestion. (upbeat music) This is McGill University
in Montreal, Canada. It boasts and enrollment of more than 40,000
students from 150 countries, the campus employs
1700 professors, teaching 300 programs of study, and it’s proud to be home
to 12 Nobel Prize winners, it is considered one of the finest research
universities in the world. Recently, researchers at McGill have embarked on a study that
uses a brain scanning device to read people’s minds
and implant thoughts into their heads, or so
their subjects think. Now the same device may be able to help kids with ADHD, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, migraines, Tourette’s, and more. This study is not
about technology. The MRI machine behind
me may look impressive, but it’s a sham, it’s
deactivated, non functioning. What this study is really
about is faith, in science. It’s about the power
of thoughts to heal. All you need is the
power of suggestion. (machine humming) (upbeat music) A placebo is something
that shouldn’t work, but due to the
power of suggestion, and because of the strength
of our belief, does, but we don’t fully
understand yet how they work, there could be an
evolutionary explanation. For example, if a small
child hurts themselves, negative symptoms like pain
and crying can be good. They keep the child
safe and still, while signaling
adults to come help. When help arrives, even if
it has no active effect. The child’s brain may
feel it has permission to redirect resources
away from seeking help, and on to actually healing. Modern medicine has
found a way to harness this power by
prescribing placebos. But not all placebos
work the same. For example, a sugar pill
will help your headache more if given to you by a doctor
than by a poker buddy, and the color of the
placebo matters too. A blue pill will work
to make you feel calm, better than a white pill, because blue is a
more calming color. And a red pill
will keep you awake and give you more energy
than a blue pill will. A capsule will work
better than a pill because it looks more important. (upbeat music) And we’re gonna stop right there because one of my guests
already has a comment. Let me first introduce
who the guests are. Daniel Toker is a PhD
candidate at Berkeley who has been writing and
researching for Mind Field at least season two and three. – Yep.
– Yeah. – Yep, and the Fear
episode season four. – And the Fear episode,
which isn’t even out yet, but it might be by the
time you watch this, in which case, it’s out already! Thanks, Daniel. On the far right side, we
have Elisabeth de Kleer, who worked on season three
as a producer, writer. She’s a science communicator,
science documentary filmmaker, but I save the middle for last because Dr. Samuel Veissière from the Culture, Mind and
Brain lab at McGill University, one of the CO directors is here. And he’s also going
to be featured quite prominently
in this episode. You’ll see him soon. And he is the one who
told me, Stop let’s talk, because we’re gonna
talk about placebos. And I just mentioned in the
episode that the color of a pill affects how it
can make you feel. A blue pill will tend
to be more calming because so many of us
associate blue with calming. However, we need to be, when you put a star
on so many of us. – Yeah, so reportedly in Italy, blue pills don’t
have a calming effect because people
associate the color blue with the soccer jersey of
the national soccer team. So they tend to associate it with a kind of a feeling of
arousal and not calmness. So it’s interesting
to try to parse out, the different effects
of some colors. Red seems fairly universal as something that triggers
high arousal, but not blue. – Is that because red is the
color of blood, you think? – I’m really not sure. I mean, as you know, we seem to have some inbuilt
attentional biases towards red like say the little buzzing
red lights on smartphones works really well that way because we tend to
automatically attend to them. It could be blood,
yeah, could be fire even because we also have an
attentional bias towards fire. – Wait, but how
universal is this? Have studies looked
at Papua New Guinea and populations there that
don’t watch the movies and don’t have the stories that we have in
America or in Europe? I mean, is this something
that, you said in built? Is it really? – I’m not aware of
all the studies, I think red for
sure is something for which we have a relatively
innate attentional bias, red processeses salient
in the environment. – This is so much of it
depends on the person, like there could be a
person here in America for whom red is really calming because of their
particular circumstances. – Yeah, it’s actually funny, I just got back from
China yesterday. So I flew in. And one of the things you
notice even from the sky, looking down over Chinese cities is how much red lighting
there is, big red LEDs. And so I associate red
with stop, like if red, it’s meant to catch
my attention, It’s
sort of alarming. But in China actually,
it’s ubiquitous. And it’s more just like
a color of good luck. Most restaurants
have their title of the restaurant in red. So it’s also meant to
catch your attention, to simulate arousal but in
less of like a negative way that it can sometimes be
here in the United States, so red street sign isn’t
necessarily gonna be. – So probably the emotional
valence is conditioned and culturally
contingent on some level. But that red is
gonna be salient, is gonna be something that we
can automatically attend to. That’s fairly universal. – And once we attend to it,
how we feel may depend a lot on the culture that we’re from. – Right. – But I think the point is
that even things like the color and size and shape of a pill and who gives it to you
will affect how it works. It’s not just the chemical
properties of the medicine, there’s so much more, so
much in the mental world. – Well, I mean, but that also
is chemical ultimately, right? Because if it’s a
blue pill or red pill, that’s gonna affect your
neuro chemistry in some way. – And you know what,
why is it red or blue? Because of the physical
shape of the molecules, The shape?
– Right. – Wow! So, right, I guess this
is gonna be a question I wanna keep coming back to how do we really
define a placebo? Because I think in the episode, I say something like
there’s no active ingredient that should cause that effect. But yet, if a pill is calming, because it happens to be blue, because its molecular structure reflects blue light the best, then there is something
chemically in that pill that works in calming you. And it’s not because
the ingestion helps, it’s just the color alone. – Right, right. I guess it’s easier to
define what’s not a placebo, as something that works
better than a placebo? – Well, that’s why another
term for placebo effects are nonspecific effects,
or nonspecific factors. So whatever factors
involved in healing that we cannot attribute
to the chemical substance that is targeted
in the treatment. And there are also non specific
effects in psychotherapy even that are, so tone of
voice setting, waiting times. So placebo is
really a filler term for all these different
psychosocial symbolic
ritual factors that we don’t fully understand, but that we know contribute
to a cure somehow. – Right? So those are called non
specific, the specific ones. How are they defined they are. – So the specific one would be the actual analgesic
property of a pill, for example, has been
well studied in RCT, we know it produces that effect. But then we know that there
are other effects around and beyond that, that also
contribute to healing. And in the case of an
actual placebo procedure, where we know that
specific molecule is not actually
present in the pill, but healing will still happen,
then we need to investigate these different effects,
these different factors. That are nonspecific. – Maybe this works,
a nonspecific, non placebo effect of a
medicine would be what works, even when it’s administered
to someone in a coma, who doesn’t know
what’s happening, doesn’t know who’s
administering it. But we know that that
molecule in the blood causes blood
pressure to go down, or whatever, causes pain to
be felt less, I don’t know. – But be careful
because there are, placebo effects have
been found, for example, in nonverbal autistic children, who for sure cannot understand
the nature of the suggestion, because, of course, if you
have some kind of an idea about a therapeutic target
and a mechanism of action, so I have a headache, and this one pill
removes the headache, then that will greatly
help in the placebo effect. But what about the case of
autistic nonverbal children who have no idea, who
don’t expect anything, and yet there’s an effect, there’s a social cognitive
component to placebo effects, you have to be able to expect what other people expect
of you even implicitly. So probably in the case of the
nonverbal autistic children, it’s also say, the reassuring
tone of voice of the parent, the parents shifted
expectations, the sort of contagious
hope that might work. And the same mechanism,
same social mechanism might be involved in dogs and
in advanced social species through observation and kind
of social emotional contagion. – Very cool. All right, guys, let’s
get back into the episode. You ready? Here we go. Also, an injection will
work better than a capsule, because it seems more
serious and potent. There’s even evidence that fake or Sham surgeries
have positive effects. It may be fake medicine,
but the effects can be real. And not just because the patient feels better psychologically, we’re talking real
physical healing, thanks to the
power of the brain. – [Dr. Samuel] So
again, briefly, can I say something Michael? – [Michael] Yeah, let’s stop. – Well, I’m really glad
you’re pointing out all these different
dimensions of placebo effects the take home point here is that the more elaborate the
procedure, the better it works. And by elaborate I mean, so
technologically elaborate, but also motivationally
elaborate. So if it hurts a little bit, if you have to wait
a long time for it, if it seems really
symbolically prominent also. So whatever prestige might
be attached to a procedure that will tend to work better
and also socially elaborate. So if you can notice
improvements in other people, preferably people like you,
people from your in group, you can talk to them,
that will also help prepare you for the
placebo response. – It’s amazing. It makes it feel like why
even study real medicine, when so much of just the
way people think about it, can make a difference. Clearly, there are
limits to that. And I wanna revisit that
when we start looking at the actual study that
we did in this episode, because talk about making it feel
technologically interesting. We’ve got a whole
film crew there. Why would a film crew be here
unless it’s gonna work well? We’ll talk about that soon. We’ll get right back into
it, The Power of Suggestion. I traveled to Montreal
to meet local children struggling with
debilitating behavioral and neurological conditions,
who would soon find out whether their afflictions
could be cured by the power of suggestion. – This is Malaya. – Malaya, I’m Michael
Nice to meet you. 12 year old Malaya suffers from a common skin
ailment, eczema, but she has also developed
a skin picking disorder. Dermatillomania. And you’re starting High School. What like this year?
– Early September? – Wow, that’s a big step. So what kind of
things worry you? Given the symptoms
that you have? – Probably the picking–
– Of your skin? – Yeah, I don’t know, I
find it satisfying to pick. It’s kind of gross. – Why do you can’t stop? – I’m not sure. – Have you tried different
things that will help you stop? – Yeah, like in my mind, I’m just like, today,
you won’t pick. You are gonna get
rid of this eczema. And then after I’m just like, Oh, wait, my face was bleeding. – Yeah, is it embarrassing? – Yeah, I like to
wear long sleeves because my arms are like,
if they’re really bad, I’m gonna try to
wear long sleeves. – How are your arms now? – It’s like really bad,
so, as you can see. – And that’s all just from
scratching and picking. – Yeah. – 12 year old
Nicholas was troubled by debilitating
migraine headaches. So what do you wanna
be when you grow up? – Like I really, really wanna be probably a NHL and MOV
player, one of those two. – Nicholas’s love of sports is unfortunately also
the original source
of his suffering. Nice. – My first head injury
which was concussion, I hit my head on a soccer post, and then I hit my head
in a game of hockey. After that I had headaches
every single day. I was throwing up having auras. They’re like colors
that you seen before you have a headache. I wasn’t able to go to school, and then we went to the hospital and into their
concussion program. – Can I see his migraine chart? – Oh sure, yeah, we have
almost two years worth. severe headaches here. Severe migraines.
– Every day. – Every single day, this has
turned his world upside down. – Nathan was diagnosed with ADHD and impulse control disorder. I’d love to hear especially
about you, Nathan. First of all, how old are you? – Nine.
– Nine. – How old you are? ‘ – [Michael] How old
do you think I am? – 30. – That’s a very
good guess, I’m 31. – Oh! – So, tell me about like
before Nathan’s diagnosis. What were kind of the
symptoms you were seeing? – Tantrums all the time. Just an inability to reach him, to communicate to him,
to connect to him. That was the main symptom. – And what did you
think of this Nathan? Were you like, why are
my parents not happy? – ‘Cause I was not listening? – Why weren’t you? – I don’t know, maybe
because I had problems. – And as far as like behavior. – Impulsivity, hyperactivity, you’re always, always on
the edge, always stressed. What is he gonna touch? Where is he gonna go? What is he gonna do? – These families had
tried conventional methods to treat their children
with little success. But they were about to find
out whether their symptoms could be alleviated using an
accessory assisted placebo, a fake non functioning
MRI machine. This groundbreaking study
of the power of suggestion in action is the brainchild
of pioneering researchers at McGill University’s
esteemed Raz Lab, – We study a whole bunch of different Mind,
Body interaction topics suggestion, hypnosis,
placebo effects, anytime the mind is regulating
the body or vice versa, that that’s a
topic that we study – Now, you said
the word placebo. And the device that we are
using is a sham scanner. Tell me about the scanner. – What we do with
the MRI scanner is we stack so many different
layers of deception. In their head, this is a
proper neuroscience study done at the
Neurological Institute. And that’s why we
wear a lab coats. That’s why we have all of this
scientific looking equipment. By the time they’ve
actually started the study. They’ve already in
their mind built up all these different
layers of credibility. They really believe that
what we’re doing is real. – What’s interesting
is that children they’re not immune to the
power of neuro enchantment – Neuro enchantment?
– Neuro enchantment. – What does that mean? – So it’s this idea that there is some
kind of medical magic, there is immense
power that is attached to the culture of neuroscience, whereby neuro scientific
props and accessories, have more healing power,
more physiological effects, because culturally, people
believe that they do. I mean, the same kinds of
cultural cognitive mechanisms are at play in
religious systems. So here we are praying to the gods of neuroscience,
and biomedicine. – Talk to me about
the ethics of lying. – The work we do with children actually does not involve lying, we tell them at first that
everything that they see and everything that
we do in the lab is a suggestion we
explained to them, that suggestion is a way to tap into the power of their mind. And we keep emphasizing even
as they go in the scanner, that it is their
mind and their brain that is doing the healing, that they’re basically
reprogramming their own brain. – The parents knew that
the scanner was a placebo. But for the study to work, the children had to
believe in the procedure. So before they visited the lab, I enlisted a few
YouTuber friends to help raise
their expectations. – Hey, guys, today, we have
a huge surprise for you about something
brand new in science that could affect your day. – Oh, I know them. – Well, today, we learned
about this amazing new machine that teaches kids brain
how to heal super fast, – We really hope that you
get a chance in person to see how this machine works. – With a little help
from the machine, you can focus better, you
can be more confident, and it can even take
away some headaches. – Awesome. – Not too many
people get the chance to have this awesome experience, but we hear the
scientists in Canada– – I gonna have it?
– Yeah, and it’s very cool. So what do you hope the
machine allows you to do? It makes you better at. – Better at concentrating,
better at focusing. – I wanna heal faster, and
this probably be a good idea. – All right, so I wanna talk
about a couple of things. One, this episode
is really different from a lot of Mind
Field episodes, because we’re
treating people in it. And we’re following
their stories. A ungenerous way to look at
this is that in this episode, we’re lying to children and performing fake
medicine on children. Dr. Veissière, what
are your thoughts? – So if you carefully examine
what we say, it is correct that we never tell a lie, that we explain the
mechanism correctly. However, to be
completely honest, we do probably rely
on the children’s to some extent uncritical faith in the healing
power of the machine on the one hand,
and their own brain. And this is because we know it
is very effective for people to be able to
relax their worries and their critical
thinking and to surrender to some kind of an
idea that they have of an external locus of control. Now, note here how both
the brain and the machine are basically an agency other
than their conscious self. So we tell them, the machine will help
your brain heal itself, it is your brain that
is doing the healing. But it is much more efficient, for the children to
at least initially believe that the machine has
some kind of special power. – I think I even remember you
telling me that you would tell the parents flat out the
machines not even plugged in. And then the next day that
they came in, they would say, but is this safe? Because how can it be safe? We’re in the basement
of a neuroscience lab, and this machine is really big
and noises are being played. – Not even that they would ask, so did you find out what’s
wrong with my child’s brain? They wanted us to comment
on neuro imaging results. And we would have to
pull them aside again and say do to remember? We’re not doing
actual neuro imaging, we’re not, you’ve competent
to comment on findings that are not even there,
they would forget. – They would forget, – They would forget because
all the queues are in place. And I think it would demand
so much mental effort to remember that this is sham, that people revert to a kind
of adaptive self deception. So this is also what
we’re aiming for. We’re aiming to tap into
the children’s ability to self deceive, which we
know can be very effective, like say, if you’re
really, really nervous before giving a talk,
and then you managed to convince yourself
that you’re not nervous, then lo and behold, you
start feeling confident. Now initially, there might
have been some self deception. But then if the
results are good, then it’s no longer deception. – This is what I really
love about all the episodes and all the work that
we’ve done together. Because we also worked
on the reverse exorcism putting a spirit in
someone that, okay. In a way, we’re almost
finding some truth to pseudo scientific practices. If I have some mental block
or some behavior I don’t want. And my mother takes me
to a person who prays to crystals and whatever, that crystal has no
chemical mechanism with which to help me. However, if I truly believe
that this is significant, and I noticed that
I’m being cared for that people care so much, and I think so much
more about my behavior, because of all of that, I
can actually get better. And that’s what
we’re doing here. But instead of using
crystals, and whatever, we’re using science looking
stuff, lab coats, and an MRI, and imaging of brains on
the computer screens around and it just feels like this
must be serious and real. But in reality, they may
as well be laying on a bed while someone sings
nonsense words to them. – And I like the
parallel that you draw. It’s true that a lot of
spiritual healing practices they draw on these
transitional objects, you could call them so
things like amulets, or stones or rocks,
or even magic, crosses that people can sort
of attribute healing power to without having to worry, it becomes a convenient way
to instill hope in people. – All right, let’s get
right back into it. – I hope he heals me
with my concussions and now I hope my
headaches go away. – I was about to take part
in something remarkable. The very first use of
accessory assisted suggestion on children with these
kinds of symptoms. Mind Field would play an
integral role in the study, and the results could be new
and significant for science. (upbeat music) On the day of the first session, several measures
were put in place to heighten the children’s
neuro enchantment. – Nathan. – Nathan! – [Michael] A
friendly fake nurse, a walk down a long,
impressive hallway (Malaya exhaling) And a 10 minute anticipation
building wait outside the lab, then it was time for
their first scan. – [Doctor] Shall we? – [Michael] While the hypothesis of this study was
grounded in science. This was Dr. Veissière
and Jay Olsen’s first time testing their theory on real children
with real disorders. And they didn’t know
if it would work. – You may lay down
if you’d like. – I have a question, so it
seems to me that placebos work, in part, because
people these subjects have a lot of faith
in medical science. Did you study that at all? Or ask them at all about that? I mean, and I guess
my question is, for somebody who’s very
skeptical of medical science, who doesn’t feel like doctors
are working to their benefit, would they still be as
susceptible to a placebo? – Well, a lot of
people might say they’re critical
of medical science. But for example, if they
have acute appendicitis, their first intuition
will be to rush to the ER. And for belief to
be really effective, it needs to be
culturally widespread. And we happen to live
in a historical moment where most of the solutions
to our everyday ailments are deemed to be
found in medicine, and children are receptive
to these kinds of cues, even implicitly, even if they
don’t know that they know. So I think, try it out
at home for example, if you have like a
five year old niece, show her a picture of a builder, and then a doctor
with a stethoscope and ask your niece, which
one is the smartest? For sure they’re gonna
point to the doctor, because they’ve picked up
on a cultural consensus that this is where,
elaborate knowledge lies. At the same time, I’m
not aware of any studies, testing medical
placebos on people who are really
skeptical of medicine who are completely into
alternative medicine, it may be that it
wouldn’t work with them. I think it’s a good hypothesis. – Also, is there such a
thing as an anti placebo? Where (laughs) and
what I mean by that? – For sure.
– Yeah okay. So that’s like somebody
who’s skeptical, so even something that’s potent, even if you give them a potent
drug, they don’t react to it, because they’re so
skeptical about it– – Yeah, right,
that’s another thing, nocebo is something different. What is that, though? Where, because of all the
done specific crap surrounding a chemical mechanism that
should work, it works less well, because of the context. – That’s really interesting. Yeah, that might very,
very interesting. And it may be that people who are a little too high
in analytical reasoning, people who are not
very suggestible, people who are not very
prone to social influence, may also reverse placebo
themselves inadvertently, because they’re too critical because they can’t let the
self regulatory magic happen. But it could be that
at the social level, or naive beliefs in
some things like say, some categories of illness that may not be
scientifically validated. But just because people believe
they have these symptoms, like say, certain
food intolerances, or certain allergies that
appear to be on the rise. Well, there’s some
psychogenic factors involved in that and then might
have something to do with collective nocebo effects. And then the next problem
is also letting people know that they’re genetically at
risk for a particular condition, sometimes may
trigger the symptoms, or may even trigger
the condition in a way that not knowing
might have been better. – Ignorance is bliss– – Ignorance is often bliss. – I think it’s very
ethically tricky, then. – It’s very ethically tricky, because you have to tell people, but then there are also risks
associated with telling. – That’s why you
might not wanna do a personal genetics test, – Right? Well, we’re about to test
that in the lab as well, because we think
there’s interesting neuro enchantment effects associated with
belief in genetics. So we’re about to do a study with Sham personalized feedback. So Sham, swab and genetic. it’s a placebo
analgesia condition. So we give people
a shock and pain. And we tell them that
in one condition, we’ve tailored the machine to one particular genetic
polymorphous that they have, and we fully expect
that is gonna work better in that condition,
but we haven’t tested it yet. And then eventually,
one of our dreams is to also test in a kind of, three on trial to
do Sham neuroimaging versus Sham genetic testing to see which one has
the strongest effect. – Ah! What’s your hypothesis? Which do you think we as
a society believe more in? Neuroimaging or genetic testing? – I’m really not sure, I think we’re moving towards believing more in
genetic testing, but the belief might
still be culturally new. Whereas belief in the
power of neuroscience are very well
installed culturally, we’re more than, two decades
after the decade of the brain. So I would say in 10 years, it’ll probably be
genetic testing. For now, it depends
on levels of exposure. But for sure, like
say for children, the idea of a gene is
still very, very opaque, very nebulous, very esoteric, whereas putting them in
this enormous machine and this authoritative
hospital might– – Might always be better than
just swabbing their mouth and telling them something. Let’s get back into the
episode, you guys ready? Okay, here we go. One of my roles was
to help build up the children’s belief
that it would work. As you go into the machine,
you’ll relax more and more. Would you like to relax
slowly or quickly today? – I can go in quickly, – Quickly?
– Oh, Wow, nice. – Very good. Although the MRI scanner
was completely deactivated, we needed the kids to believe
it was fully functional. So Jay played a series of
realistic sound effects to signify that the
machine was working. While Dr. Veissière
planted the suggestion that it would help
the patient heal. – You may notice some unusual
feelings, perhaps a tingling, your brain is continuing
to learn and to heal. And to help you find this
constant feeling of confidence. – [Michael] If all went well, the placebo effect of
the Sham brain scanner would convince the
children’s conscious minds that real neuroscience
was at work. – A deep, deep breath. – [Michael] This would allow
their subconscious minds to harness the power of their
brains to heal themselves. – For people with migraines,
it’s often in the front or the back part of the
head but it could also be like a feeling like
outside the head. So I’m not sure what it’s
gonna be like for you. We’ll find out afterwards. So we’ll now slide you in. – Cool, it’s like
a roller coaster. I love roller coasters. – The deeper you go in,
the more you’ll relax. – Okay, I wanna go
all the way deep I feel more stronger beeps. – I know this is because you’re
already at level three. You might notice a deeper
feeling of relaxation. – [Nathan] Yes, I can feel it. Can we go a little
bit deeper please? – [Michael] Yes. – [Nathan] I want
my whole entire feet Nice. – [Michael] The
scientists at McGill believe the children’s brains
have always had the ability to control their symptoms. The children just needed
to believe it themselves. (Nathan sneezing) – [Dr. Veissière]
Yeah, so the beeps can sometimes make people sneeze as a sign that they’re
relaxing just very deeply. Right? Very well, you did
very, very well Nathan. – [Michael] The children all
appear to enjoy the procedure and the researchers
and I did our best to reinforce their
neuro enchantment. – So when you heard the
the first set of beeps and the second set of beeps Did you notice feeling them in
different parts of your body? – Well, the first time
I went in the machine, I kind of felt the hair. – Okay, good. – What level was
she taken to today? – Level two. – Level two! – [Dr. Veissière] Yeah,
level two is great, yeah. – [Michael] Yeah. – When I was in the
machine, I felt like I was going backwards
and forwards. – Okay, that’s very good,
that’s very good sign. You might have noticed
how you were yawning. – I wanna go to sleep. – That’s great. – [Michael] For a kid
with hyperactivity, Nathan was already
appearing calmer. But before our young
subjects left the lab, Dr. Veissière bolstered the
suggestion that today’s session would help them continue
their healing process. – So I know for sure that
you’re gonna be more relaxed, much, much less anxious, I
would not be surprised at all. If the scratching
really diminished to
no scratching at all. The amazing thing
about the brain is that it has this fantastic
power to heal itself. But now what we’ve
been able to do here with the power of suggestion
is to get your brain to work faster and
better all the time. So how do you feel? – Amazing. – [Dr. Veissière] Oh, nice. – [Michael] Mind Field
provided the Raz Lab with Octopus by
Joy, Smartwatches. – [Nathan] Lefty rules. – [Michael] They were
specially programmed to remind the children
in between visits, that their brain
was healing itself. – Just having the watch with
you will make you feel better. But it’s not the watch,
or it’s not the machine that’s making you feel
good, it’s your own brain. – Okay, I just stopped
it, because I wanna say, at this time when
this was filmed, smart watches were like a
whole cool brand new thing. Everyone was excited,
the kids were like Oh! And we had to be like, it’s
not like an Apple Watch, it’s just for your brain
health, which is better. Tell me about the watches, because I don’t
think in the episode, we focused enough on
what their role was. – The idea was to work
on placebo conditioning. So first we enlisted a
response in the scanner, with a mixture of
hypnotic suggestions, anticipation and all the
effects that you showed. Now once we’ve found a target
response, like say relaxation, or self regulation
some other way, then we get the
kids to expect that when they receive a little
buzz from the watch. They’re going to
keep experiencing whatever effect
we were listening. So usually respect, relaxation,
focus, and so forth. So then we programmed
different delivery schedules for the children where they
would get a little buzz and a little friendly icon and then it would remind them
Oh, I guess I’m doing great. And then we had them come back after two weeks in the library, I would decrease the delivery
schedule of the buzzes because I didn’t want them to
become too addicted to them. And eventually
after a third week, there would be no more buzzes. So they could play
around with the icons, because I didn’t want them
to rely on the buzzes. But then yeah, as
you pointed out, a lot of the kids still
wanted to have the watch as a kind of a transitional
object like a little blanky, that helps you
sleep or an amulet or a special ring
that people have. – You may have heard
us say a few times. Oh, you’re at level three. Today, you got to level
two, is completely made up. There were no levels. But yet the kids really
read a lot into that. – And then they became
more and more proud each time they know
they went deeper. And they surrender
themselves to the– – Well, of course they did
because no matter what happened or how they felt they
were told that’s good. Oh, wonderful, oh, really? – We were validating
everything they felt. – Every thing. – Was the level thing planned? Or what that
improvised on camera? – No, we kind of I think
we improvised it on camera. And then we stuck to it. Because we saw that
it worked really well. – Well, yeah, I just allowed Samuel to
guide the whole thing. I sat there and I
would just back him up. I’m wearing a lab coat as well. So I go, uh, oh wow. And it was almost hard
sometimes to not laugh because he’d be like, Ah, yes. Well, oh,
you feel sleepy? Oh, that means
you’re very advanced. And I’d be like he
said about everything. (laughing) It was so funny! And I was always excited
to see what level he would say they reach
because it gave me a sense of how much further you
wanted to go with them. – Right, right. And because as you remember,
we had many more kids than we what ended
up showing on camera. And we had great results
with all of them. – Right, so let’s
talk about that. So you see three children
featured here in this episode. But I believe there were
seven, eight or nine that we actually worked with. – There were 12, – there were 12, Okay, not all 12 could fit into the time constraints
in that episode. That’s partly why I
wanna have this marathon so we can talk more. – You remember Mikey? Really, really hyper, really difficult to
get him in the machine. And still, there were lots and
lots of improvements at home, he was able to take a
shower for the first time he made a friend at camp. And the watch in particular
worked really well with him because he was
very focused on it. And I made him work really
hard to earn that watch. So by the time he got the watch, he was already going in
the machine, he was calmer, he was more
respectful to his dad. – I think I remember
the parents, the dad saying, okay, so we
reached a point where your goal was to get the watch off the kid that you don’t need to watch,
after all, your own brain, your own self can control this. But people really want
those accessories. And the parents were like, Well, I mean, could you
tell them to keep it on? Because it keeps the kid calm, and it makes them
more thoughtful. And it makes them more
aware of their behavior. – You have kids, right?
– Mm-hmm. – Do you use any of these
tactics on your own kids? – Absolutely, our very first
subject was my son Mathias who suffered from
chronic migraines. And we did a lot of work on him. And we had amazing results
on his chronic migraines, Mathias, he couldn’t make it in the final cut of the episode. But he also helped in the
initial study as a child mentor, because we found that a lot
of the kids were terrified of getting into the machine. But then if they could
speak to another child who had gone through
the procedure, and who could talk about
how fun and safe it was and how he’d gotten better, then we were able to
have much better results. So we use this kind of
peer mentoring strategy that we’re still using,
actually, in the studies that we’re running now. But yeah, for sure, I use
these kinds of tricks. And I give placebos to my
children, all the time. – And then you have your kids
peddle the placebos to others, because you’re right, we
don’t show Matia, Mathias? – Mathias, yeah. – We don’t show Mathias in
the episode, but he was there. And man, the kids believed him
so much more than the adults. If he said, Yeah, I get
in their like every day, or whatever his schedule was, he was honest about all of this, and he was honest about the
good results he was getting. Although let’s be very clear, this MRI is just a piece of
plastic, it is not plugged in. It does not have
the liquid helium in their magnets in
anything, it’s just plastic. – And Mathias at the time he
participated in this study, was still blind
to the condition, meaning that he was
still somewhat convinced that there was
something to the machine even though he
understood the language, he understood the
concept of suggestion, but there’s a part of him that didn’t wanna
think about that fully. – How can this only
be a suggestion if
I’m in the basement of a neuroscience lab
with this big machine? Clearly, they’re lying
when they tell me the truth that this is a placebo. All right, let’s get back
into it, you guys ready? Here we go. In six weeks, we would
return to the lab to check in on their progress. (upbeat music) This high tech
contraption is pretty much what McGill university’s first Sham brain
scanner looked like. It was an old
discarded hair dryer. But the patients
didn’t know that. In the original study, 56
undergraduate students were told that it was able to reduce
pain, cause amnesia, influence sexual attraction and produce various
other impressive effects. The labs new, more
modern sham brain scanner shows even more promise, and
I was invited to participate in its test on a whole new
group of adult subjects. (soft music) – Okay, so you can come in
here and just grab a seat. – [Michael] These college
students are fully aware of what’s possible
today with neuroscience. Could even they be
neuro and chanted enough to believe in the impossible, that an MRI scanner could
read their thoughts. Now, we’re looking at cutting
edge psychological research. – Okay.
– Yes. It’s part of the neural
activation mapping project. We’re gonna be
putting you in an MRI. So it’s a modified one,
it’s called a CTMS FMRI. – Okay. – So Combined Transcranial
Magnetic Stimulation, Functional Magnetic
Resonance Imaging, which is a big word just meaning it can both read and
influence thoughts. – All right, okay. – So you’ll be choosing
a number from 10 to 99. – Okay. – And then from looking at your
neural activation patterns, Dr. Veissière here
will try to infer which number you’re thinking. – Interesting, okay.
– Okay, great. – [Michael] Most
adults know the basics about MRIs, so we made
sure to cover every detail. – In the scanner, the
magnetism is a lot less. this is good for the
documentary team, because it means they
can bring cameras, so that said, we do have to
remove the metal gadgets. – Got it, all these. – [Michael] After
this realistic, but completely unnecessary step, it was time to begin our
fake mind reading experiment. (eerie sound) – So we’re gonna
start the calibration, so try to stay very still. – [Michael] Of course, there was actually
nothing to calibrate, but we were conditioning
our subjects with the expected procedures, sights and sounds
of a real MRI study. (beeping sound) Okay, think of the number one. – [Michael] The
subjects were asked to concentrate on the
numbers zero to nine, while the machine supposedly
mapped parts of their brains. – Think of the number nine. – [Michael] Dr. Veissière and I remained in character
at all times, pretending to analyze the
subjects brain activity, but the images on our
screens were actually old MRI scans from
former patients – [Jay] Is the calibration good? – It looks pretty good to me. – With our subject now primed,
it was time to convince her that the scanner could
identify a number she was thinking of,
by reading her mind, – You’re gonna choose
a number from 10 to 99. – Okay. – You’re gonna hear a beep,
then you’ll hear a second beep. So you’re always
making your decision between the two beeps. – Okay. – Good?
– Got it. – So I’ll slide you in. (soft music) (beep) So hold on to that
number for just a second. – Okay. – They’re gonna print it
out, and then we’ll see. – Okay. – It was pretty clear. – [Michael] we pretended
to give Jay the results of the MRIs analysis,
but actually, Jay was about to add the
subjects number to the document with a little sleight of hand. – Okay, so you can say lying
down just for a second. What was the number? – 31. – 31, okay, cool. So if you can set up here. – What? (laughing) – So it’s pretty close,
but it’s swapped, uh. – Yeah, okay. – [Michael] That miss
was actually intentional. So the results didn’t
appear to be perfect. Adding to the realism. – So you’re doing well, we’ll
do another trial of this. The same thing, okay,
I’ll slide you in. (upbeat music) – [Michael] Michelle
thought of a new number will the scanner get
it right this time? – Super clear. – It’s clear.
– Really good this time. – [Jay] All right, they
think the signal is clear. What was your number? – 27 – Uh, 27 did you say? – 27. – Okay, great, yeah so
if you can set up here. – Yes, oh, wow. What? I don’t understand, crazy. – So you chose 27?
– I did. – And technician got 27 as well. – Yeah, well okay.
– Yeah. (Mitchell laughing) – Oh, wow, how does that feel? – I didn’t expect it
to be so specific. A lot of different areas in
the brain could be lighting up Just think of the
concept of a number. – [Michael] What do
you know, it worked, thanks to the wonders
of science, or rather, the skills of Jay, who in addition to
being a neuroscientist, happens to be a professional
magician on the side. Well, Jay won’t reveal
the secret of the trick. The mind reading
illusion is very similar to The Mentalist tricks that have entertained
audiences for over a century. The only difference
is that when audiences see the stunt performed
in a magic setting, they think it’s a great
trick, not real science. – The machine had 89. (laughing) – That’s cool. – [Michael] However,
in the impressive scientific setting
of the Raz Lab, these subjects thought our
magic trick was real science. – Oh my god (laughing) – [Michael] They didn’t realize that the real science
they were experiencing. – It’s pretty cool. – [Michael] Was the
power of suggestion. – Wow. – A dose of neuro
enchantment this powerful can make for a formidable
and effective placebo. I want some of the
physical sensations. – Sure. – What was your experience? – I felt like the
headache was coming on, I sort of felt like
tingling through my head– – Where? – Just through this area. Like this whole area
felt more like full – I felt like a sort of
pressure or something like that, a strange feeling. – Back here a little bit. – [Michael] In the back? – Yeah, a little
bit in the back. – Somewhere in the back of
the head, right, interesting. – Some tingling inside my head. – Okay. – I wanna hear what it felt
like to have your mind read. – That was very strange. I think I was probably
skeptical, like going into it. And then I couldn’t figure out
as I was thinking like, why, how that would happen otherwise. And so I’m just I think
in a baffled state. (laughing) – Yeah, yeah. It was time to clear up
this baffling mystery. So some deception has
been going on today. Dr. Olson is not reading your
mind, neither is this machine. This machine is deactivated. All the noises were
coming from a speaker. – It was an
illusion, oh, my God! (laughing) That’s pretty cool. – Dr. Olson is not
reading your mind. – Oh, no! – The sounds you’re
hearing are not magnets. It’s just from a speaker. The machine in there is
actually deactivated, it’s not working. – Well, it’s like placebo. – Yeah, that’s
exactly what it is. Now imagine tapping into
this power for other effects, like healing, for example. – Right, wow! – I’m definitely believe
the placebo effect is alive and well. (laughing) – All right, so
we just saw adults being fooled and
certainly lied to. However, the cool thing is that,
while we punked the adults, we used that same phenomenon
for good with the children. And we don’t deceive
the children, we just allow them to
deceive themselves. I still don’t know how
the magic trick is done. And I never asked
because it’s his trick, not mine to know. But when the participants
said the number they were thinking of he managed
to somehow get it written on that sheet and the time
it took him to be like, yep, that’s what it said,
and it was phenomenal. And then to hear people say, Oh, yeah, no, I felt
tingling, my head felt full. It’s like you were
just laying on a bed. Nothing was on,
nothing was happening. It’s all in your imagination. – Well, a little
behind the scenes here, you might remember
that there was a second condition
to that experiment, where we implanted
numbers in people’s heads. So once we get them to believe that the machine
reads their mind. So their minds are blown. And then we inserted
numbers in their head. So one of the guys you
might remember, say, I thought of the number
45 I hate the number 45. I would never myself,
pick that number, the number was just
flying into my face. And so it’s in that
second condition that a lot of them reported, kind of weird feelings like
tingling and headaches. – That’s right,
I totally forgot. It didn’t even make
it into the episode. But we also said now that
we can read your mind, we are going to implant
thoughts into your mind, you are going to have a
number put into your head, you’ll close your eyes and a number will appear
that we have put there. And of course, we use the
same sleight of hand trick to convince them that
that’s what happened, whatever they thought they had. Whatever they had thought was
what we wanted them to think. And, obviously, that’s crazy, like that could
be abused so much. But yet we convinced
neuro science postdocs that we were able to do it. – And you might remember
we were toying around with doing like just
improvising a third condition where we make people
speak or like say things or we induce the
symptoms of Tourette’s. And in retrospect, if we had
done that saying the behavior in the reverse exorcism
episode, remember, like, we were able to induce
all kinds of weird feelings, like even an out
of body experience, but we couldn’t really
get people to speak. We couldn’t get the spirit
to speak through their mouth. But if you’d have taken them through like two
steps like this, to really convince them that this machine
is doing something, then we could have
gotten participants to do all kinds of wild things. – Yeah, that we branded at time, but I remember that
day, you were like, let’s just go out on the street,
recruit people to come in. I can get them to say bad words. And think that it’s being, like they’re a puppet
of the machine. – Is that related to hypnosis? – Yeah, sure, absolutely. It is hypnosis, it’s accessory,
ritual assisted hypnosis. – I think that
hypnotism is often seen, well, at least I
can speak for myself as a nothing but a trick, right? I know that there are cases
where it’s used clinically. Is it all placebo, though? I mean, what are
you really doing when you hypnotize someone? And they need to be
susceptible to it. – Have you ever been hypnotized? – No, I think I could respond
to being hypnotized like this. Because while I don’t
have a lot of faith in whoa, Hocus Pocus, hypnotizy, instead, I will be
like, this is an MRI, you’re wearing a lab coat, whatever is gonna
happen is gonna happen. – Yeah, so is
hypnosis like placebo that depends what
you mean by placebo? But if what you’re
asking is, is hypnosis, tapping into some, say,
autonomic resources that we typically don’t have access to
volitionally effort
fully, then yes. So getting people to somehow
relax their hyper vigilance and being being able to tap into or elicits
physiological responses that they themselves could
not induce voluntarily. Yes. And I think you’re correct. The induction ritual of surrendering to
the set of suggestions about falling into trance, that’s the kind of a
cultural bound ritual that works for some people,
that may not work for others. But I think that anyone
can be hypnotized, as long as you
find the right set of what we would
call epistemic cues. So you tap into the
kind of knowledge, the kinds of things that
they’re likely to believe in as being authoritative, then
you can definitely get people to relax their
critical thinking. – So, I’ll say I’ve actually
been hypnotized before. And I was very, very
skeptical going in. And as the hypnotist
was telling me, oh, when you open your eyes, you’re gonna forget
the number three. I remember thinking
to myself consciously, there’s no way I’m
gonna fall for this. And then he say,
Okay, now count to 10. And then I would get to
three, and then I would pause, even though I’m telling
myself, in my head, I’m saying, I can see the number three,
but I just couldn’t get it out. – Wow, I need to do this,
I need to get hypnotized, because I’ve always seen
it as just a party trick where I’m gonna make you
bark like a dog on stage for at a kid’s birthday party. And they do, and I’m like
they’re all faking it. – But you may not
be susceptible. So there’s a pretty Gaussian
distribution of susceptibility. So most people will fall for
some things, but not all. Some people will
fall for nothing. – Some fall for all
– Exactly. – So it’s interesting
because it is a relatively stable psychological trade,
and that’s well studied. It doesn’t change much
throughout the lifetime except in childhood. So between the ages
of seven and 14 is when people are
more hypnotizable. And some people are so we
say their highs or lows, high hypnotizables,
low hypnotizables, and there is a
normal distribution. – But it’s really weird. Actually, I don’t know
if I’d recommend it. It was a kind of an unpleasant
experience to be hypnotized. – I’ve done more
unpleasant things. I think, I wanna talk about
that after this episode, kind of talk through some
of the more uncomfortable and scary moments, but for now, let’s just get right
back into the episode. All right, here we go. (soft music) There’s evidence that
the power of suggestion even works on animals. A study at North
Carolina State University found that 86% of dogs receiving
real seizure medication had a reduction in seizures, but almost as many a full 79% experienced the same effect
from just a placebo pill. Now, we don’t know how a
placebo effects a dog’s brain. But it could be that
dogs have learned to associate vet visits
and medicine from humans with feeling better. So giving them a placebo could help a dog’s
brain heal itself. (upbeat music) Quick note, we recorded the scene with
that dog so many times. There were so many takes,
were you there, Dan? – I was there. – Oh, man, first of all, I don’t think a lot of
people don’t know this. But all those rooftop scenes from season one and
two were shot at night. We did a whole week
of overnight shoots from 5:00 in the evening
to 5:00 in the morning. And so I don’t know what
time of night that was. But we’re all exhausted.
– It’s like 3:00 in the morning, the dog
would climb up to you– – The dog would jump on me yeah. it was hard to get
the dog to wait. And the trainer was like, look, the dog doesn’t
understand its cue. It just knows that you’re
gonna give him cheese. It doesn’t know
what you’re saying, And he doesn’t know
when it’s a good moment. The dog was not a great actor. Shall we continue? Here we go. – So first, I’ll ask
you to lay down again. And of course, you’re
a total pro at this. – [Michael] For several weeks, the children had undergone
sessions in the Sham scanner at McGill University. – Your body continues to relax as we keep unleashing
this healing energy. – [Michael] Each time
they were reminded that through concentration
and relaxation, they were helping
heal their own brains. – There we go. Finally, after six weeks of
receiving the placebo sessions, it was time to get a
report on the results. Malaya suffered from anxiety and a compulsive skin
picking disorder. Had she experienced
any level of success? It’s good to see you.
– Good to see you. – Go ahead and take a
seat, you’re wearing not even, I thought maybe
they’d have short sleeves on you’ve just got a tank top on. Your arms look fantastic. They’ve really gotten better. And your face I mean, all of it. Why do you think you’re better? – I’m guessing it’s the machine. – [Michael] Yeah, what about it? – Ah, I’m not really
sure how it works. But I’m picking a lot less, sometimes if I see
like a tiny flake, I’ll just leave it there. – That’s a pretty short amount
of time for such a big change in the way you think and
behave, that’s awesome. – I don’t really feel
the urge to do it as much as I did before, so
it’s a big improvement I guess. – Yeah, that
definitely feels like and sounds like your
brain being powerful. – It’s obviously
doing something, because my arms are better. – Well, you seem a
lot more confident holding your head up higher,
would you agree Anne Marie? – Yes, she seems less anxious. She’s more positive, (mumbles)
I was hoping for this. It’s more than nice to see her. – Yeah, good work. And ask for Nicholas and
his migraine headaches. Hey, it’s good to see
you again, Nicholas. Tell me about the procedure
and how you felt afterwards, – It accomplished things
that I wanted it to. I haven’t had a migraine at all. – [Michael] That’s awesome. – And concentration is a
big thing that it helped. – Wow! And can I see the
symptom charts? – For sure. – So these go back to February. – Yeah, and they’re
really telling. – And you can see not
good, lots going on. But then recently,
no migraines at all. That’s incredible. – Yeah. – So you said you went
to the neurologist. – They thought it
was quite remarkable. He hasn’t needed any
rescue medication and he hasn’t needed
the preventer. And he’s not having migraines. – I’m actually really
excited for high school. – [Michael] Both
Malaya and Nicholas attribute their improvements
to the Sham scanner. They believed it was working
for them, and indeed it did. So how did Nathan who
suffered from ADHD and impulse control disorder
fair over the last six weeks? Well I received a home
video from Nathan’s mother, with an update on his progress? – So the best part about
going through the treatment was just what it did to our
son, we noticed a difference in Nathan immediately
after the first session, and do you remember
what happened? – I slept? – Yeah, he slept
something he doesn’t do very often during the day,
he slept for two hours. He was refreshed, it was
just incredible to see it. And then what happened
was the entire summer we had him off the
medicine, and he did great. He thought about stuff
before he did it, we were able to talk things
out and it’s been fun. So overall, we’re very pleased. And we just had such
a great experience, so thank you very much. – [Michael] The Children’s
results are encouraging, and a powerful sign of
how effective suggestions and our willingness
believe them can be. In time, the kids
will understand how all of the power
was within them, and not in the scanner. This work is truly cutting edge
it hasn’t been done before. – Correct. We also think of this
as a great new way to do science and
to collaborate. – So much more of the public
will see what’s being done. – Yes, science isn’t
just about publishing a paper that nobody reads. It’s about spreading
the ideas that you find. – 100%. – As far as I’m concerned,
you’re already a co author in our scientific
experimental paper. – Wow, very cool. Thank you. (upbeat music) – [Michael] The
Children’s improvements were caused by the
placebo effect. And no deception was
used to mask that. The parents knew the
machine was deactivated. And the children were only
told that it had the power to put a suggestion
in their brain, a suggestion that ultimately
came from themselves. But surely, the more
people learn about placebos and their lack of
intrinsic power, the less effective
they’ll be, right? No, studies show that
even when subjects learned that their treatment
was a placebo, the positive results
do not go away. What the subjects have learned
about how to heal themselves, remains with them. It was an honor to have
been a part of this study. I think this is Mind
Field at its best. Using our resources to help
researchers with their work and helping the public see
how the brain is studied. Placebos can’t fix everything. But these kids always had
the power to start healing. All they needed was the
power of suggestion. And as always,
thanks for watching. All right, so
that’s the episode. Dr. Veissière I have
dismissed Elisabeth and Daniel so that we can talk
one on one, honestly. – I miss them. – Do you feel the pressure? What are your thoughts now
two years after that episode? – Well, my thoughts are we
are to take this further. And so I’m thinking
lots of directions. One of them is practical. It’s kind of unfortunate
that the general public is really interested in this. But it’s still hard to convince the scientific community
and the clinical community, there’s something
worth pursuing there because it’s so weird. So it’s been difficult
to get research funding, it’s been difficult to get
our research papers accepted for publication when
we try to present this particular project, – How do you do a
control in a study on the effectiveness of placebo? Like, do you test it
against a different placebo? – Yeah, and that’s been one
of the comments from reviewers when we try to submit
this from publications. And I think it was a
really good comment they’re asking, okay, so it seems you’re
doing this really cool, really amazing procedure, you’re giving these
kids a lot of attention, a lot of positive reinforcement. But what exactly works? And what doesn’t work? Is there anything
in that intervention that is absolutely
necessary or essential? For example, do you
actually need the scanner? Could you just go and, give kids lots of positive suggestions
about how they can use their hyperactivity to be
really focused and strong? Or could you do us just a watch, so I can tell you something
we’re doing right now is, we’re beginning to test
in a randomized trial, just the watch versus
just the machine to see if one of
them works better. – Huh, okay, that sounds
really nice and precise. – Precise or not? Because even then there’s
so many other factors, as you know, so
say, the charisma, or the reassuring tone
of the experimenter. Like I’m sure you’re interested in the replication
crisis in psychology. So one of the hypotheses
is also that well, it could be that some labs are
trying to replicate a study. Well, the experimenters are
just not as charismatic, there’s just not as good
or not as authoritative. And there’s lots of other
factors that are going on. And it’s not just a mechanism
itself that doesn’t work is that this one team is
not able to reproduce it. – Man, it’s so hard to control
for all of those things, a bunch of different
people need to run this, but they all have to have
the exact same charisma. And every day, no matter
what their mood is different from day
to day, it can’t be. Because we really only wanna
look at watch versus machine, when we know that the charisma
can play such a big role. – Mm hmm, or also, the
setting of the study, is it in the hospital? Or is it like right now we’re gonna replicate
it in a school. Because it turned out
that logistically, now that Mind Field is not there to handle recruitment for us,
then we just could not manage to bring all the
participants in the hospital. And we have a contingent
from the school. So it’s a lot easier
to do it there. And as such, we also have to
use a simpler mock scanner. – Right, you know what
that brings brings up a big limitation of how
Mind Field can help. Because if you said okay, I’ve got a different
experimental design that I think is gonna
work really well. But it’s very similar. Could you do another episode that will look almost
exactly the same? I would love to, but I don’t know if
YouTube would pay for that. So I hope that Mind Field can at least bring
what’s being done, and its importance
to the public, so that they know what to
support and they know what to, I don’t know what kind of
good things are being done and why it’s important for us
to have research institutions that are investigating things
that might seem I don’t know, a little still fuzzy, but yet can lead to
amazing discoveries. What are you working on
that I don’t know about that might be interesting. for future episodes of
Mind Field of Vsauce, I know that you were
working with tulpamancers. That’s still going on? And if so explain what that is. – Sure, so before talking
about tulpamancers, we’re also doing
lots of stuff related to suggestion and
placebo studies. So we’re testing like, say fake
Adderall, fake psychedelics. – [Michael] Fake psychedelics. – Fake psychedelics– – There’s an episode in the
first season of Mind Field, where we give people a short
acting and psychedelic, and we have
Confederates in the room that pretend like, Whoa! Everything’s echoing. And sure enough, you can make
people think they’re tripping. – Absolutely, and we
also use Confederates, just like you guys, and we
had really good results. – So what are you
specifically like, what variables are you kind
of tweaking and studying? – Well, we’re also interested
in the whole battery of non specific
psychosocial effects beyond the chemical properties
of the substance themselves, including the particular
cultural expectations that this psychedelic experience should yield this
particular effect. So we’re looking at, social
proof, social conformity, emotional contagion, but also, testing particular
cultural beliefs. We’re also going to be
testing, Sham genetic testing to see how convincing that
might be, and at some point, one of your dream is to compare
that to Sham neuroscience, so to see, different kinds
of neuro enchantment. – What’s the point? Okay, so we learn that
people are neural enchanted, and they’re, I don’t
know DNA enchanted, what’s the word for that, our
faith and genetic research? – We think they’re really
big ethical implications, particularly when we start
thinking about potential, nocebo effects and culturally
widespread nocebo effects. So, genetic testing also
generates a lot of anxiety. A lot of the times it’s not done under proper clinical settings
and clinical guidance, and people start
worrying immensely, because they have
a particular gene that is thought to correlate with a particular
condition like say, Alzheimer’s, for example. And that can bring about all
kinds of negative experiences, including sometimes perhaps
precipitating early onset of diseases that may not
otherwise have been triggered. So we think there’s lots
of important implications, particularly in
terms of, debunking, dangerous pseudo medical
and pseudo scientific idea. So if we’re able to demonstrate that there’s a lot of authority, a lot of placebo nocebo
effects associated with, say, genetic testing,
then we’re better able to inform clinical practice,
for example, or policy– – And the public cannot be
quite so enchanted by it or perhaps misled,
needlessly panicked. Wow, it’s important stuff. – And so to answer
your questions, yes, we’re still working
with tulpamancers. As you recall, I did a
cyber ethnography years ago, with just delivered a
psychological testing on these really cool,
weird young people who conjure imaginary friends that they come to
experience as basically as auditory visual
hallucinations, except
they’re not crazy. And they report an increase
in well being in their life, even in social
adjustment as a result of having picked
up the practice. So people wanna say,
well, they’re crazy, they’re hearing voices, and we
think we’re able to show that No, in fact, there’s
lots of context in which you can hear voices
and be a very healthy person. So now, under the leadership
of Dr. Mike Lifshitz, and Dr. Tanya Lerman
at Stanford University, we’re in the process
of doing neuro imaging of tulpamancers and
comparing them also to evangelical Christians
who speak in tongues. And so we’re interested in
seeing what happens in the brain when either spirit or tulpa sort of takes over
and starts talking. And we’re interested in the motor areas of
the brain as well. And we wanna see if something
different is going on. When say, an agency other than
itself a tulpa or a spirit is sort of in control. – Yeah, what does it
look like in the brain when you aren’t in control of
your thoughts and behavior? If we can tease
out the difference, then are we literally finding
like that is your agency that is your
consciousness, your will? And if it’s gone, then you
feel like you’re possessed. Which, by the way, brings us to our reverse exorcism episode, which you guys
should all check out. Keep me up to date
on what you’re doing, because I really wanna
help in any way that I can. And, communicate all the
cool work that you’re doing. So Dr. Veissière thanks.
– It’s always a pleasure, – Always a pleasure.
– Thanks for having me. – Now, we’re gonna
turn to a darker topic. My own death. Should I die? Let’s find out. (eerie music) Someday, I will die. But should I? If I was offered a longer life, I would take that in a second. But how long is too long? Is death something I
should deny forever? Or is death and the role
it plays in the universe, something I am
better off accepting? (upbeat music) I wanna start by looking
at a particular way death affects how we live
and treat one another. Terror Management Theory
proposes that people like you and me manage the
terror of death’s inevitability by embracing cultural values. That the more aware a person
is of their own mortality, the more vehemently they will
enforce their particular views of the world on to others. Created by social
psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg,
and Tom Pyszczynski Terror Management Theory, or TMT suggests that often
we are afraid of change, because we’re afraid of death. Each one of us has a
worldview, a set of beliefs, customs and norms we identify
with that can live on after our business
physical bodies die. TMT suggests that rises in
nationalism and prejudice are correlated with rises in
the salience of mortality, but is how present the
inevitability of death is in people’s minds. This role that death
plays fascinates me and two have TMT
originators Jeff and Sheldon have agreed to work
with me on a pilot study of Terror Management Theory and real life
reminders of death. (soft music) What’s your hypothesis today? Well, I think we’re gonna
hope for the participants who are reminded of their
mortality to be more punitive, and their assessments. – Let’s see what happens. – Good morning. – [Michael] For our study, we
created a fake Research Center staffed by actors and
invited participants to be a part of what they
were told was a focus group about the criminal
justice system. During the actual study,
each group will hear a list of several different
crimes that have been committed, and will then be asked
to propose a punishment for each offender
with a severity level ranging from one to seven, with
one being the most lenient, and seven being the most severe. The control group will
simply enter the survey room and be asked to
answer the questions. The experimental group,
however, will first be exposed to reminders of
their own mortality with strategically placed
posters in the lobby. Also, the questionnaires
they fill out will include questions
about their own death. Decades of TMT research have
shown that when presented with violations of
common worldviews, those who are more aware
of their own deaths will recommend bigger
punishments for the
crimes presented. But will our real life
reminders of death, not just the survey
questions usually used make a difference? Well, first, let’s look at
the control participants. – Thank you so much
for being here. Now, I cannot
emphasize this enough, there are no right
or wrong answers. This is just about your
gut level reactions. All right, let’s begin. After raising
millions of dollars in grant money to fund
education for needy children, a fundraising manager
unhappy with this life fled with all the money and was arrested months
later in Tasmania where he was living
under a different name. So one, his punishment
three months in prison, seven is most severe,
10 years in prison. Please answer now. (upbeat music) – This is one that I think
does has views on both sides. – Yeah. (bell ringing) – [Michael] That
is a lot of sevens. If our control group is
already maxing out like that, well then our scale has
no room in that direction to show any effective
mortality salience. Discovering issues like this, learning how to better isolate
mortality salient’s effect is exactly what a
pilot test is for. Hey!
– Hey. – Personal differences, huh? – Yeah. – An imposter with no medical
training posed as a surgeon and bungled a minor operation
to remove a child’s tonsils. The patient recovered fully
after additional treatment. One is six months on probation,
seven is 10 years in prison. (upbeat music) – Okay, if you are taking
on the persona of a doctor, we expect good behavior. (bell ringing) – The surgeon
botched the operation and was found to be under
the influence of narcotics, causing her to have
permanent hoarseness and ruining her career. (bell ringing) (upbeat music) A 16 year old girl who had
just received her license drove through a red
light hitting another car that was being driven
by a talented pianist. (bell ringing) (upbeat music) A couple was taking their two
children to the playground when they saw a woman
sunbathing nude. – Look at that there could be a gender gap. We’re also learning a lot about
the world views people have. – [Jeff] Yeah, absolutely. (bell ringing) (upbeat music) – An anti government
protester was arrested for spring painting profanities
at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. One, 40 hours. – Wow, she went one right away. – Five years in prison.
– She’s not a fan of authority and rules.
– Yeah. (bell ringing) (upbeat music) – Okay, thank you so
much for your time. I really appreciate it. – All right, so
here’s the results and the mathematical analysis. These are averages per question. These are the averages and
medians per participant. – The fours are great,
the three is great. – But this is grounds
for optimism, at least. – Seven was the max
sentencing value and our control group
gave an average of 4.5. I’m really happy with
that as a control group. – Absolutely. – [Michael] Now, our
experimental groups. Remember, they will
be seeing posters that remind them of
their own mortality and will be asked different
questions in their questionnaire for example, please
describe the emotions that the thought of your
own death arouses in you. And write down as
specifically as you can, what you think will happen
to you physically as you die. The point is to prime
their mortality salience. Let’s see if this group is more punitive towards
worldview violations. – After raising millions of
dollars to fund education for needy children,
a fundraising manager fled with all the money and was arrested months
later in Tasmania. One, three months in prison, seven, 10 years in
prison, please answer now. (upbeat music) – He’s thinking about it. – Please hold up your answers. All right, thank you so much. – Ah, okay. (bell ringing) (upbeat music) – An imposter with no medical
training posed as a surgeon and bungled a minor operation
to remove a child’s tonsils. One, six months on probation,
seven, 10 years in prison. (upbeat music) – They are thinking a lot more. – Yeah. (upbeat music) (laughing) – A 10, I’m pretty sure she
knows that seven is the highest. – We’ll call it a seven yeah. – It’s funny to see when
people feel bold enough, even though I’m like
breaking the bounds and the rules of the task. (bell ringing) (upbeat music) – An anti government
protester was arrested for painting profanities at the Lincoln Memorial
in Washington DC. (upbeat music) – I really do appreciate
the way they clearly seem to be taking a bit
more time to deliberate. – Yeah. (upbeat music) (bell ringing) (upbeat music) – Okay, they can
put the papers down and tell them that we
will be in shortly. – Okay, thank you so much. We finished with this
part of the study. So if you don’t mind just
hanging out for a moment. And our researchers will
be in here in a moment to ask you a couple questions. – Let’s find out if the
reminders of mortality, we showed our experimental
group were salient enough. – Let me ask you
about one thing, out in the waiting room, did you all notice
the posters at all? – [All] Yes. – Okay. – I was surprised as soon
as they walked in the door, and I saw the gravestones. – Yeah, that’s right. – I wondered what
did I get into? – So we are looking
into something that’s called Terror
Management Theory. And it’s the idea that your
own awareness of your mortality can affect the behaviors
that you exhibit, that we all manage the
terror that we feel knowing that we are mortal,
by behaving in certain ways, especially in ways that
reinforce our own worldviews because we can kind of live
on through the societies and cultures and identities
that we have today. – Did any of you feel like
you were still thinking a little bit about death when you were came in here? – I was definitely
going after people who transgressed against my
worldview to use your terms. Yes, I noticed that. Yes, I was definitely
doing that. – So this was
incredibly helpful. Thank you very much
for your participation. It looks like our experimental
stimuli were successful. They were salient, but they
didn’t cause the participants to think they were
related to the study. – The control participants
averaged about 4.5. The experimental participants
were close to 4.7. So there’s a slight tendency
for the experimental people to be leaning in the
direction that we predicted. But we’re talking
about relatively inconsequential differences. – That’s right. It just makes me hungry
to run more people. And with the number that we had, That’s statistically
insignificant. Do you think that we
did see any effects of mortality salience today? – I feel like the
mortality salient groups tended to take a little
longer before responding – Yeah me, too. – And they seem more thoughtful. they really put more
effort into trying to do the right thing. – The difference
was dramatic enough that we picked up on it. – Absolutely. – [Michael] Although our
stimuli might need to go through a couple more passes
and some more vetting, we did find an interesting
difference in the time it took for our
groups to respond. Our control group took an
average of four minutes and 46 seconds to decide
on their punishments. But our experimental
group took an average of seven minutes, 18 seconds. – In a sense that really
is the prediction, the right thing by
their own worldview. But by the same token,
when we think about death, we wanna do what’s right. And if we’re acting like jurors, we wanna make the
right decisions. – As we very much learned today, the goal isn’t to prove one
thing one way or the other. It’s just to reduce uncertainty. In the most careful
way possible. – Absolutely. To know a little bit more
today than we did yesterday. – Whoa, okay, we have
a lot to talk about. And luckily, I’ve got just
the person here with me to talk about all
of this with Judy Ho a clinical neuropsychologist, tenured professor at Pepperdine,
you run your own practice, you work with ethics a lot. What is your actual position? – So I’m the chair of the
institutional review board at Pepperdine University, which is how we first
started working together because you were doing
the trolley experiment. And that was an interesting
thing to talk about. – Yes, if you have seen
the trolley problem episode of Mind Field you
have seen Judy there helping us with the ethics of can we make people think
they’ve committed murder? Is that okay? Maybe it’s not okay for
the university to do, but can a TV show do it? Bottom line is we learned a lot. And so, Judy, I wanted you
here today to talk with me about running experiments
on people, okay. But also running experiments
on people for a TV show. Because there are all
kinds of limitations and issues that come up. And I think that what we
just saw is a great example of all the different
things that happen, that are both good and bad, challenges and
opportunities for Mind Field when it comes to
psychological experiments. – Sure. – So the biggest
problem we have is, it’s not possible for us to run enormous numbers
of participants. We have a very tight schedule, and we have a whole
crew working with us, we cannot run hundreds
or thousands of people, we can run like a couple dozen. And sometimes that’s
not enough to really get a statistically
significant result. – Right. – Also, I think it’s
very clear here. The kinds of participants
who come on to the show, they don’t even know
they’re on a TV show, by the way until the end
when we debrief them, but the kinds of people who
are available here in LA, in the middle of the day. – Right. – Is a both a very narrow and a very wide group of people. – Right. – If we were running
this at a University, and we needed people to be
free in the middle of the day, we would get a very
homogenous group. – Yeah. – They would be
predominantly young people between like 19 and 22, their worldviews would
be pretty similar. I mean, they’re all at
the same institution, they’re probably socio
economically pretty well off, because they’re at
this university. Their cultural backgrounds
might be much more similar than what we find working in TV, where we might get retired
people and immigrants and really young people and
actors, a lot of actors. – Right, yes. – Oh, my gosh, the
number of people in LA, who were free to do studies
in the middle of the day, who part time actors is a huge, which that always leads to the
issue of the audience at home goes, wait a second, and
they Google up something and they go, that person
was on a TV show, right? Is this all just fake? And it’s like,
that’s what it’s like to just grab who’s
available in LA. But because of the
diversity that we get, I think our populations
represent the country better. But also, we have
way more noise. – Yes. – Questions about how
bad is it to deface an American monument
are going to have very different answers
from different people. – Absolutely. – And in this particular
study, we had that problem. We’re trying to see if you’ll
enforce your worldview, more or less if you’re reminded that you’re going
to die someday, and the issue was that
everyone showing up had very different worldviews. – Yes. All right, so I’ve just thrown a whole bunch of stuff at you, – A lot of stuff to talk about. Well, first of all, I
thought it was fascinating the way that it was set up. And it was a really, really
good episode to watch. And, just to see the
reactions of the proponents of the theory that was so cool that you got them to be in it. ‘Cause they are
invested in the theory. – That was so cool. And both of them wrote
all of those scenarios. And it was truly
science in action. They came up with scenarios, we found out Wow, some of
these are just so extreme, even to a control group
that we don’t see any room for any other variables to
change in that direction. So we had to rewrite
them in between days, and gosh, it was true science. – Yeah, no, it was really
cool to see it in action. And it was really cool
to see how different the control group and the
experimental group was in terms of the latency and
even their facial responses, as they were
considering all of this. I certainly saw that
being a significant effect that they just seemed
like they were taking their roles so much
more seriously, right. Whereas sometimes when
you get these people to come in for an
experimental study, they’re just here
for their whatever, $10 or whatever you’re
offering them for their time. And, they’re more
haphazard about it. And I certainly saw that
with a second group, there was just this real
pronounced sense of gravity to their considerations. – Yeah, we thought, what the severity of punishment
dealt out, that will be the variable that will change
based on mortality sale. But it turned out to be
disposition and thoughtfulness. – Totally. – Luckily, we recorded
the whole thing. So we could go back and
say, how long did they take? That wasn’t originally measured, but because of the
footage, we could time. And we found out that it
took almost twice as long for the group that
came in thinking, I’ve just written an essay about what I think
death will be like. Punishing people for
violating cultural norms. This is a heavy thing, too,
and they reacted differently. – Yeah, and I think
that it may not be I mean, I understand
the original tenants of Terror Management Theory. But I can also imagine
when somebody is really, really very cognizant
of their mortality, that they might actually
be more lenient, like life is short,
I want this person to have a second chance. And so I think part of
what wasn’t measured that might have been helpful is actually trying to
counterbalance the two groups in terms of do you have the
same types of belief systems, and ideologies, right? Because if we don’t have that, then they’re kind of just
going at their own values. And if we don’t know
very much about it, you can see why that
noise could contribute to the average being 4.5
and 4.7 in the two groups. – Exactly, which is basically
no difference at all right? – Right, yeah. – But yes, I think in
hindsight, and this is, again, the whole point of
science is to be like, all right, what can we learn? And how can we keep at all times the uncertainty on this
track down and down? And right, if we kind of knew what people’s worldviews
were ahead of time, like if we had interviewed
them a couple of weeks before, long enough ago, that they don’t
remember it anymore, right? Make them somehow not
think that it matters too much that the
questions are related, then the test, I think, could
have given us better results in terms of the punishments
dealt out and all of that. And it can be frustrating
when you wanna do a show, and you wanna show
results and teach, but you also want to experiment. And sometimes the experiment
won’t always leave you with everything nicely tied up. – Right. – And that’s a good
lesson to give people but it has been frustrating
to do experiments where you need a big
population of people, it’s easier on the Mind Field, to make myself the guinea pig. Or focus on a topic where we just need to see
it happen one time. – Right, right. – Like can I get someone to
falsely confessed to a crime? If I get one person to
do it, then we’re done. But if I wanna see a
tendency for people to be more punitive
to worldview, their worldview violations,
if they’re reminded of death, I really need to run
hundreds of people. So I mean, what do
you what do you think? Do we need to remind the
audience of that every time? – Honestly, I don’t think so. And I would say, first of all, that social
psychology experiences
(mumbles) especially, are built on the backbone of very homogenous populations, it’s tended to always involve
undergraduate students who are given the
option of either doing this 10 minute experiment
or writing a 15 page paper. It’s not really very
ethical, actually. Because you’re kind of coercing
them towards the experiment. And so you’re gonna
get lots of first and second year
psychology students. And, again, it’s
still for a class. So how honest are
they really being? Because what if the
professor discovers what their answers are? And so there’s all
kinds of things that are already
inherently an issue, and even the published
studies and social psychology. And I think what a TV
experiment really does that I don’t think
any more kind of, planned out research
study with hundreds and thousands of
participants will do, is a really lively and
visual demonstration. And that in itself
is really useful. Because if somebody
actually says, Now, I wanna take
that study protocol, and apply it to 500 people, they now have a
template to do that– – Which they should
do, by the way, please do that, that would be, Mind Field would
have done its job. But yeah, I think
the responsibility I have with Mind Field is to
document how science is done, and what results might look like and what the protocols can be. And then the comments might have been full of
people with different ideas, how it would have
been a differently
and I’m like, perfect. – Awesome that people wanna
weigh in and be so engaged– – Exactly go off and do that, we really didn’t know how
that experiment would go. And I still don’t
know how it would go if you change one little
thing in one way or the other. – Well, and I
think it also shows the beauty of what an
ad hoc analysis can do. Like oftentimes you
have your hypotheses, like, for example,
your hypothesis was
that you would go in and you would see that there
was gonna be more severity in terms of ratings
of punishment in the
experimental group. But actually, you
didn’t see that. And then you thought that
something else was happening, because we saw the videotape. And, oh, it’s how
long they took. And you were able to go
back and call that data and to make a
statement about that. And that difference
was significant. It was almost doubled
the amount of time that the experimental group,
it was cool to see that. – It was cool. And you could feel a
difference in the mood which it’s hard to measure. But you know what,
when you are recording everything from multiple
angles, you have that evidence, right, you have
that documentation. – They seem stressed. Like, when I was watching
them, I felt bad for them. They they just looked so upset. – They weren’t fun scenario, it’s like hey, this
person botched a surgery because they lied about
their qualifications. Or this doctor got
drunk and hurt someone. There are pretty bad things
to think about, anyway, – This really just brings up
though, kind of the spirit of why we do experiments
in the first place, because it’s always a
cost benefit analysis. And I think we talked about this also on the trolley episode. It’s really about what kind
of information you’re getting. Are you just torturing
people for fun and using your hidden
cameras for fun? Or are you providing some kind
of educational value or a way that people can process
important issues like mortality? When I first saw
you in the casket, I gotta tell you, that’s
one of my worst fears. We talked about this on the
most recent episode I worked on with you that, that is my
biggest fear, is death. So that you are providing
some value and insight to people who are thinking
about how do I make the most of my time on this earth? And does it mean if I
take my moral decisions a little bit more carefully, that I’m gonna feel better
about myself in my life at the end of the day? Because that could be
providing some kind of insight for people to
better their lives. – Yeah, that’s my favorite part
of every experiment we run, the debriefing
where I get to say, here’s what we’re studying. And people they’ve never gone, “Okay, cool, can I
get my money now?” They’re always like,
well, they want the money. But also, of course,
they’re like, wow, oh, yeah. ’cause I was feeling this,
and, they’re excited, to think about it on
the on the car home, and they’re gonna tell their
friends about it that night. And I hope it does a
lot of good for them, even if sometimes, they may have been a little
bit scared halfway through. – Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I think that that
is really the core of why the experiments
are important on TV, because, you are gonna get
a more engaged audience. And if it encourages people
to think about themselves, and to encourage
personal development
to tell their friends and family, then I think
you’ve done a great job. So I don’t think that you
have to necessarily say, and by the way, maybe
this experiment, will turn out different if
you had 500 people running it, because the visual
aspects of the experiment, as it is built is what’s
triggering these people to really do that
self evaluation versus reading it on a page. I mean, that’s part of the
problem with experiments is that they’re in these
journals that you have to be a psychologist to subscribe or just a really interested
person who’s not a psychologist, that you wanna pay
your $500 a year. – Because you’re getting like
a weekly thing, and it’s huge. Oh, my gosh! – No one’s gonna read that. So this is a great way for
people to understand experiments and not feel afraid, a lot
of people will tell me, I’m afraid to run experiments. That seems like a
lot of work to do. Well, the way that it was
broken down in the episode, it doesn’t really
look like people can’t do a version of
it themselves sometimes. – It did take a lot of work. We have the best crew ever–
– You made it look easy. – Yeah, we made it look
easy, love to hear that. I also think what we
just saw is a good way to talk about
hidden camera shows. – Yeah. Because a common
question I get is, how do the people not
know they’re on TV? How do they not see the cameras? And they don’t, we
do a really good job. I mean, we’re in LA, and I’m working with the
best hidden camera people. I mean, I go into the
room, and I’m like, but aren’t we gonna film this? And they’re like, we’re
filming it right now. – From five cameras. – Yeah, the ways they
have the disguise cameras, I’ve always said we need
to cover that on the show. So that people know how well
hidden the cameras were. – Yeah, ’cause they were
excellent angles too– you got really good–
– I know, but guess what the producers are like, no, because then people
will know the secrets, and they’ll know
what to look at. Trade secrets, but also, they don’t want future
participants to go. You know what? If I see that pattern, there’s probably a
camera behind it. It works because
people don’t know how we’re hiding them so well. If you look at the
projectors screen, you can see that
there’s a band across it of a different texture. And that is something that
a camera can see through. But in the room, you don’t
think anything of it. It’s just this boring
feature, and no one notices. And then when we tell
them, they’re on TV, they’re all like, what? So there’s a whole
other permission form
they have to sign after they learn that, ’cause we can’t tell
them beforehand, or else people will act
different if they know that there’s going
to be an audience out there watching later. – Yes, absolutely. And we see that a lot in
social psychology studies, I mean, even just the presence
of more people in the room can already impact
how they respond. So in this particular scenario,
there was one experimenter, it feels less like an audience. But sometimes you’ll have
three or four experimenters and it does like really, like in a big way affect
how people start to deal with themselves,
deal with each other, you can sometimes see
them being more polite, a little bit more
ginger with things. And it’s only because they
think that other people are watching and taking
notes about them. – You know what? It makes me wanna bring
up something else, we really need to get
back into the episode, but like, come on, I can
do whatever I want, right? So Mind Field began, as this idea I had for a show that at the time I
called Prankology, because when I was a
student in high school and college
psychology professors would often show
Candid Camera clips, and then talk about
the social psychology that was evident in those clips. The clips were entertaining,
the science was cool. I’m like, let’s do that. and pranks were kind of a
thing because of Punked. This was a while back, right? But all of the pranks that
like networks wanted to do essentially only taught
one thing, fight or flight. They just wanted people
to get really scared and freaked out and
pee in their pants. Luckily, YouTube saw
that there was value in something like this. We’re like, so is
anyone gonna scream? Is anyone gonna think
their car was totaled? And I’m like, no, they’re
just gonna respond to a question with a number. Interestingly, you have
to make that interesting. How do you have someone
fill out a survey and have it be good visually? Well, we came up with the
idea of having them write their number and then show it
to the proctor of the study, so that the camera could
see what number they wrote. That’s the whole reason
they did it that way, rather than fill it
in and turn the paper. – Which of course
changes results too. Because if it’s a
private opinion, versus one that they’re
showing their showing somebody. – They’re showing, then their
face is associated with it. But last at the last minute, we had to put those blinders up. So they couldn’t see
what other people next to them were doing. Because we knew that
that would affect it. So we had to walk
the line of, okay, we want them to
put the number up next to their face
for the camera, but we don’t want that to affect how they answer the question. So how do we make sure
that it still feels as private as possible? – Right. – A lot of thinking
goes in this. – A lot of thinking,
a lot of thinking. And I also wonder to just
even the characteristics of the experimenter in the room, the actor that you guys hired. Again, with certain
of those questions, there could also be a response, of well, this person might
judge me if I rate this a seven, just based on their
own perception of what that person
might be thinking– – Exactly, that is something
that is worth investigating more experimenting with more. What I can say is that
during those trials, the direction we gave Trin,
who’s our wonderful actress, she’s just perfect at this
kind of role, and many others, but we told her, you have
to kind of act bored. Like you’ve been
doing this all day, and you don’t care
what they write down. – Yeah, no gasps of surprise. – Yeah, you’re not gonna be
like, oh, you gave it a one? Also, she just read a script,
she read each word off a page. So it was always
the same language. And it was just monotone, which
is a funny direction to give someone who is in a like
a really talented actress. To be like, we need you to–
– As boring as possible. – Be as boring as possible. And it’s the least
acting as possible. – Right, right. – As a little
acting as possible. Judy, thank you so much.
– Thank you so fun. – Always a pleasure.
– Awesome. – All right, we’re gonna
continue watching this episode, when we come back, I
will have a new guest, but not new to you or me. So actually not a
new guests at all, but I’ll have a different guest. Let’s get ready to learn more about whether
Michael should die. (upbeat music) Our pilot test shows that
there’s still a lot to discover about terror management, and
many promising ways to do it. I’m particularly intrigued
by our observation that for all the
closed mindedness, mortality salience appears
to cause it also led to what looked like increased
consideration, and thought, I’d love to see more
research on that idea. But the point is this. If death’s effects
aren’t all entirely bad, what if, instead of, or
at least, at the same time that we hope for the
abolition of natural death, we also find a way to accept it. Now, obviously, I don’t want
to die, at least not soon. But accepting the
inevitability of my own death and being less afraid of it
feels powerful, and honest. I’d like to learn
what that looks like. And I have a friend
who can help. (soft music) I’m paying a visit to
Caitlin Doughty, a mortician, author and death
positivity activist who has made an entire
career out of discussing the aspects of death that
most of us prefer to ignore. What do you say to
someone who comes to you? and says, I think
death is terrifying. It’s, so scary and sad that I’m just here now, – Is this person dying? Or is this person– – This person is me in
front of you right now. – This person is
you, okay so (laughs) I would tell you
a couple things. First, you’re dealing with the primal existential
quandary of human existence. – Yes. – And you are one of, the many billions of
people who have felt this, so you’re not alone
in feeling this way. So we go through life,
we reach a certain age, and we begin to
understand that someday, ourselves, and everyone
we love will die. And that’s powerful,
painful knowledge. And I think from that moment, we have to start developing defense mechanisms
to handle that, and to integrate
that into our lives. – So what are those
defense mechanisms? – I think that the more obvious
ones would be having a child writing a book,
making a TV show, creating a legacy of some kind, but there’s also a more
insidious version, which is war, taking other
countries, being rich and being okay with
other people being poor. I think those are all
signs of death denial, they’re all saying, but I’m okay because I have this money,
or I have this power, or I have these kind of dark
impulses that allow me to say, at least I can outrun
death in that way. And of course, that’s not
true, no one can outrun death. But you can trick yourself
into believing that. – So how would you characterize the western
relationship to death? – Take America 150 years ago, if you were my
husband, and you died, I would be entirely
in charge of you, I would wash your body,
I would get the neighbor to make a wooden coffin for you, we would put you in the
coffin and carry you on our shoulders to the grave which someone had
dug themselves. It would have been an entirely
self sufficient process. But what happened around
the turn of the 20th century is really three big
things in my mind. One, you had the
rise of hospitals, so people were no
longer dying at home, you had the rise
of funeral homes, which means that we are
now outsourcing our death. Third one is slaughterhouses, so all of a sudden,
all food production, and the killing of animals
is also hidden as well. And we live in our
suburban houses where all those
things are outsourced. And it’s just these
little layers and layers and layers of
denial around death. – But what does it
mean to accept death? – I don’t think that you
ever truly accept death. But I believe that the
movement toward accepting death involves really
true self awareness about where you’re hiding
your fears of death. That’s where real awareness
and acceptance can come from. – For me, the thing that’s
just such a bummer about death is that I just I’m done. I don’t get to continue
learning things and seeing what happens, and I’m just not part
of Earth anymore. – Isn’t death kind of what
gives you that passion when you think about it? When you think about like, I
love learning, I love ideas. If you didn’t have an endpoint, Are you gonna come in here
today with all these cameras and do the huge
amount of legwork that creating a show requires? – No. – No, right? Because you’re like, I don’t
know, maybe I’ll do it, 200 years from now,
whereas right now you’re taking in
information left and right, because you wanna
produce content, you wanna produce
exciting things and share with other people. – Because this is my
one chance to do that. – This is your one chance,
the passion and the realness to life comes from it ending. That’s the great gift
that death gives us. – What’s an unhealthy
relationship to have to your own mortality? – The pursuit of immortality, and the pursuit of,
“I will stay alive “until I can upload my
brain into the cloud.” That worries me, the
idea that everyone is just allowed to live forever, from here on out, is not
environmentally sensible. It’s just not a sensible
position to take. (upbeat music_ – [Narrator] We are seeing
the dawn of a new era, of possibilities
unfold on planet Earth. What more amazing will
be like in say 80, 100 or even 200 years from now? Wouldn’t you like the
possibility of finding out? (upbeat music) – To understand why some
people feel like death shouldn’t be inevitable.
I’ve come to Alcor, one of the world’s leading
life extension facilities. Linda. – Hi, how are you? – Great to meet you. – Nice to meet you too,
welcome down Alcor. – Thank you for having me here. I’m meeting Linda Chamberlain, who co founded Alcor
nearly 46 years ago. So this facility that
we are in right now is where you both cryo
preserve people and store them. – Yes, we have 160 patients. – Wow. – And we have 1190 something members, it changes. – A member is someone
who is alive today. – Alive today, they’ve made
the arrangements for this. Once they are cryo preserved,
they become patients. – You’re using the word patient. – Yes. – Okay, tell me about
why you use that word. – For us, death is not something which is like an on off switch. One second, you’re alive
the next second you’re dead. What we are trying
to do is to slow down and stop the dying process. – To become a patient at Alcor. First you have to pay
between 80 and $200,000, then you have to die
or more specifically be pronounced clinically dead. This generally means
that your heart and lungs have stopped functioning. At that point, Alcor
can begin their work. – Now there are two
ways that a person could sign up for
this procedure. There’s a whole body
patient or as a neuro – Oh, and does neuro
just mean head? – It means yes, the
cephalon actually, which is all the structures
down to about the clavicle. I’m a neuro, everybody
in my family, who’s now in staces is a neuro. Most of the people
who really understand the technology are neuros. The primary reason that
people choose whole body is the emotional. – Of course. – And they’re not comfortable
with the idea of their body being removed and discarded. So let’s say that our
patient, is whole body, the moment the
patient is pronounced, they go into an ice bath. And this is just crushed ice, and its water in there as well. Their heart is started again,
with a mechanical thumper, they’re intubated and their
lungs are functioning again being ventilated circulating
the cooler temperature. – Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you need the veins, the
arteries, the vasculature, the heart, you need all of those continuing to pump
and circulate. – This is our operating room. So basically, when the patient comes in
through the door there, they’ll go into this specially
developed operating table, it is going to be circulating
nitrogen gas over them to help cool them externally. And if its whole body patient, then the surgeons open the chest and then we begin circulating the organ transplants solution. – Once in the operating room, the patient’s blood is replaced with cooled organ
transplant fluid and circulated through
the vascular system to rapidly cool
down the internal and external
temperatures of the body. Now, just before the water
within the body tissue reaches its freezing point. Cryo protective
fluids are introduced. These act like anti freeze
preventing the formation of ice crystals that
could damage soft tissue. This is called the
vitrification process. – Now let’s say that
it is a neuro patient. So they come in first here– – Yep their whole body. – Right the surgeons will do
the neuro separation first. – Okay, yeah, that makes sense. – To separate the cephalon, which is all of the structures
down to about the clavicle, bring it over here to this operating field. Wash the blood out
and we introduce the organ transplant solution. – I’m imagining a
person’s cephalon essentially their head in here, I can see how it’s
going to get clamped in. That looks like I’m sure a crazy sci fi movie,
but it really happens. – It really happens. – [Michael] After
the verification
process is complete. The patients are
placed inside bags that are attached
to open metal cases, which are then placed
inside cylindrical tanks filled with liquid
nitrogen called dewars. – So this is our
patient care bay. We have 159 patients – In these tanks right here. – In these tanks. There are approximately
nine patients and each one of these four
whole bodies and five neuros. This one right here is where my husband is currently housed.
– This one right here. – Right, this is where
Fred is at the moment. My mother and my
father in law are in this one. – Wow, it’s so weird
because I am right now, not in a graveyard.
– No. Alcor is very much
like an ambulance taking their loved ones to a
hospital, not down the street. that a hospital in the future, when technology can help them. – They’re not being transported through space but through time. (upbeat music) To see what drives this
time traveling ambulance, I’m going to sit
down with Max More, Alcor’s CEO and a
future neuro patient. So Max, what’s the status
of the technology needed to revive cryo
preserve specimens? Are we getting closer? – We are getting closer, it’s gonna be decades at
least before we can bring back human beings,
whole human beings. But we already cryo
preserved eggs, sperm, we cryo preserved skin
corneas, heart valves, all kinds of things. So these are single tissues and
we can reverse that process. Now you move from
that to an organ, things get more difficult. But we actually did an
experiment a few years ago took this little tiny worm
we used certain chemicals, So it would learn that, oh my foods over here
and not over here. And we cryo preserved them,
and then we just waited, brought them back and
then we tested them, we were able to demonstrate that the memory
test that the ones that had received the
training retained that memory. So it was the first
time in an organism we’ve proven
survive with memory. So now we’re asking, okay,
what’s the next step? Because whole organisms are
difficult to reverse right now, but step by step, the
more progress we can make, the more convincing this is. – Now, when it comes
to extending life, some questions come up,
like should people die? I know we don’t like
the idea of death, but do we lose something? – I know what
you’re getting at– – By getting rid of death. – Yeah, I think we
will lose something like we lost something
when we got rid of slavery or
smallpox, So I think people,
people find themselves in knots to rationalize death. I believe that. Right now we’re kind of
in this tragic situation where over time, hopefully
you kind of learn your wisdom grows over time, but the same time your cognitive and physical health is
declining, that’s really sucks. That’s a bad situation. What if they both could
keep going up indefinitely, so you could live
hundreds of years or longer and get smarter and
more knowledgeable and wiser, and hopefully more mature,
and have more foresight, because you got a much
longer planning horizon. What we’ll have is a world
of like ultra mature people, which I think will
actually be a better world than the one we have today. And if they say well, and it just comes up
all the time, they say, well, death is what
gives life meaning. Bullshit. If that was true, then would
they also advocate people who live to 90 should
be killed off at 45, will that double the
meaning of their life? In fact, I think life
gets more meaning, the longer you live,
because you can build on what you’ve done before. So if anything it increases the meaningfulness
of life, my view. – You’re making me
realize that in many ways, I am rationalizing death. I’m looking for ways to
excuse it and accept it. I don’t think it’s unhealthy
to accept that you are mortal. – Well, I have to accept it because I could get
killed at any time. One thing I’m have to stress
because every article written they always have to use the
word forever, or immortality. And that’s not on
the table here. We’re just offering a
chance people to be revived in the time when
we’ve beaten aging. But eventually
something’s gonna get you so we’re not
offering immortality, we’re offering an unknown
extension of human lifespan. (upbeat music) – Okay, so, Elisabeth,
welcome back. – Thanks. – Pretty heavy stuff. You have a connection to Alcor. In fact, you were the one
who got us that interview. – Yeah, I set up the visit. – So how did you come
into contact with Alcor? – Well, I grew up in near San
Francisco in the Bay Area. So I think Alcor has always
been in my consciousness, and my awareness
since I was a kid. I was familiar with
the philosophy of it. And I probably have a dozen
friends or so who are members. – I think you even are friends with the couple on the
brochure about Alcor. – That’s right.
– That people get. – And Max is a friend as well. – Right.
– Yeah, the CEO. – So I guess the next
question is, are you a member? – I’m not a member yet, but
I intend to be at some point. – So what’s keeping you
from doing it the cost? – It’s just the cost right now, Yeah, that’s it, and also
the fact that honestly, if I were to die right now, the chance of
being cryogenically
frozen is pretty low because the way I would
die would probably be in a motorbike accident in
India or something like that. So it’d be hard to
get this cephalon back to the Alcor lab in time. – Yep, the best. It’s weird to talk about
this the best way to die, to be cryogenically
frozen is to die, right there near their facility. I think they’ve said that
they have a lot of members who near the end of their life
move to the Scottsdale area, so that when they die, they can be taken
right away or actually, an Alcor team can
be at your deathbed. Now, the best way to be frozen. And this is kind of
what makes me feel like we have a long way to go, is that the best way
for me to be cryo frozen and then brought back
later is for someone to literally kill me right now. Stick me in the ice bath
right now start pumping in the fluid to cool my body down
and kill me by cooling me. If I die in any other way, there will be too
much cell death or at least there will be some, because for a split second, while the law decides
whether I’m dead or not, my cells are already dying. – Right yeah. And also, I suppose
by that logic, you would also wanna do it as early in your
life as possible, when your brain is in
the best possible state. – Exactly, I wonder if
they’ve ever had a member say, all right, I have
cognitive decline. And it’s happening to
the tissues in my brain. If you preserve me when I
finally am pronounced dead by an authority, what
brain will I have left? That’s what I’m stuck with. They may believe
that in the future, we can just reconstruct
an entire consciousness by just knowing a little bit about some of the brain
connections and structures, but I guess all of
this brings us to what Caitlin was saying, she really was uncomfortable
with that idea. That it seems what
were her words? Non sensible. – Well, I think living forever immortality is
pretty nonsensical. And even Alcor will
say and even Max says that what they’re striving
for is not immortality. It’s just extending
the life that we have. And there’s many ways
that we do that already. We have antibiotics
and vaccinations and
things like that. – Right, just wearing a seatbelt is a life extension protocol. What Alcor does, seems much more sci fi. And, I also understand
a lot of the criticisms around the cost, the cost filters out only a certain kind of
person to be preserved. If we can bring back frozen
people in the future, those from now in history
will predominantly be high. I’m a Silicon Valley
millionaire or billionaire. And I’m back and now it’s
the year 8000, and I’m back. – Right and certain
personality traits– – [Michael] Only
personality traits? – Yeah. – Yeah, so is that possibly
not gonna represent our arrow well in the future, if only those with the
means to extend their life in that way, do so. – And the other thing
that goes along with that is I think that people
who have abundance are also more likely to
want to extend their life, not just because they can, but because they’re
living a good life. And so Alcor is not, I
mean at least for me, it’s not about denying death, it’s not because I’m
terrified of dying. It’s because I
actually love life. I enjoy every moment of it. And the only tragedy is,
like you said that I won’t, at some point, I won’t
be able to keep learning, I won’t be able to keep growing, I won’t be able to keep
discovering new things. So people who enjoy life who
have the fortune of being able to do all of that naturally
want that to continue. – Now I get some of the
reactions people have like, well, but it’s not
environmentally sensible. And we only have a finite
amount of resources, I get all of that, I hope that
that ceases to be a problem. I think more human
lives is just better. And to think any other
way is ridiculous. We need to make sure we can
sustain all of those lives and give people good lives– – And that could take
us about overpopulation. – Is what I’m saying, yeah. I feel like any negative side
effects of overpopulation could be fixed by the time
we’re also able to literally bring back a frozen brain. Okay, we should be
working on both. But I’m basically throwing
that off the table, because I don’t really care. I think it’s not going to
be an issue in the future, so long as we keep
focusing on it, problems of overpopulation. Well, we need humans to die, or else we’re not gonna have
enough beef for everyone, and it’s like, all
right, let’s fix that. But assuming that that’s fixed, I still feel like there’s a kind of hubris
that turns me off to the idea of extending
your life like this. Why do you think that you
get to live longer in this? I hate to say artificial because
seat belts are artificial, they’re technology we
invented to make us not die so often and quickly. – Yeah, yeah, I get what
you’re saying I mean, it does feel kind of self
indulgent, to be able to say, Here I am, I’m so special, I get to be one of the few
that survived in the future. And I guess my counter
argument to that is whenever, with any new technology, it’s always initially only
limited to a subset of people who are risk takers,
early adopters, who have the financial
means to do it, who have the sort of foresight or sort of long term perspective to wanna do that
in the first place. And just because that’s a
small set of the population doesn’t mean that those
people shouldn’t do it. In fact, on the contrary, that’s the first step to making
it accessible to everyone. – I brought up a point to Max that I think is in
the bonus footage, but didn’t make it into the
episode about social progress. And how if we wind
up with five, six, 700 year old, super
mature people, what if their ideas about
the way society is organized, doesn’t change, and we
wind up getting stuck, not making progress, because the population
wants to keep living the way they lived in their 20s, which, in 600 years
might not be the way. Which I don’t think
any system right now is the best system. But if we start having
people not die out, does that mean that we
stopped making progress? It’s a weird argument. Max then points out. So what are you
recommending we do, genocide people
when they’re old? I’m like, no, not that. What do you think? Am I making sense here? – Yeah, definitely. I mean, I think that the brain does tend to become
sort of ossified. As we get older, people tend
to be more conservative, more traditional, be
more set in the routines. But I think by the time
we have the technology to, and cryonically free
somebody and revive somebody we’ll also have age
technologies to make the brain more flexible again and reverse the aging process in the brain. So it might not actually
be an issue anymore. And the other counter
arguments I have to that is, okay so maybe that is true. But let’s see how it plays out. We’re still gonna be
having children, right. And so there are still
gonna be fresh ideas, new generations, the
generational dynamic is gonna be very different. Because it won’t just be
boomers versus millennials. (laughing) – Yeah, there will be like
four or five generations around to be battling it out. There will be 20, 30. And man, we will learn so much. I think a lot of that fear
you have as you get older about things changing is an
evolutionarily designed process of like, Look, I lived
long enough to reproduce, therefore, the way I was
raised must be good enough. anything different could risk
that not happening again. So of course natural
selection will choose people who have developed a mind
that doesn’t like things to change, it doesn’t want
the kids be too different, but imagine living
to be 600 years old, and you see so many
generations of kids that like different
kinds of music and do different
kinds of hobbies and things and they’re all okay. – Yeah, think about
how much wisdom you’d have after 600 years. – I think what we should do
now is go back to the episode and look at the
decision that I make. (upbeat music) Do I think that
someday we will be able to cryonically freeze an entire
person and then revive them? Yes, I do. I believe that cryo preservation will change the meaning of
death, and lead to breakthroughs and medical technology that
will improve all of our lives. But do I want to extend my
life indefinitely? Well, on the one hand,
obviously, death is a bummer. But on the other, the
universe managed fine without me for
billions of years. Am I really so important that it should never
not have me again? Should I be around
as long as possible? Or do those who will come
later deserve their own world? Should I try to extend my life? Or should I decide to die when my time comes and
return all this matter I’m borrowing back to the world? Well I don’t think
there’s a right answer. It’s a personal choice
we each get to make and should be able to make. And I’ve been thinking
about it a lot. (upbeat music) So I’m going to speak again
with my friend Caitlin the mortician to confront
my own mortality. Well, Caitlin, Thanks for
meeting with me again. I’ve been surrounded by
death lately, spoke to you. I visited Alcor and, if we never invented
technology to bring people back then the Alcor
patients are dead. But they have that hope. I worked on Terror
Management Theory. And I even had a loved one
pass away just two weeks ago, my grandmother. – I’m sorry to hear that. – She was cremated,
as well as my father. And I realized, I’ve never made a clear decision about what should happen to me. Because I just figured I’ll
figure that out when I’m older, but I could die at any time. – You sure could. – So I wanna be prepared, and
I want my wishes to be known. So I’ve decided, when
that moment comes, I want it to be my final
moment of existence, I wanna give all my
atoms and molecules back to the universe, and I’ve
decided that I want to die. – I’m so glad you’ve
made that decision. And you’ve come to
the right place. – I want to be naturally buried, I wanna
have a green burial, become worm food and plant food and I want it all
to go back to Earth. But I kind of want a place where
people can come to be like, that’s where he was buried. – So there’s everything from
just little discs in the ground where you are, to GPS
that locates you to
natural cemeteries that are trying to
reintroduce native plants. – Yeah, yeah, yeah. – So you can have
your own Joshua Tree. So the first thing I’m gonna
give you to give a look over is what’s called an
advanced directive. And everybody needs
to have one of these. And why it’s so important
is that it’s you, not only designating someone
to be in charge of your body as you’re dying,
right after you die, and then with however you
decide to dispose of it, but also who that person is. – So this isn’t just about
burial, this is dying. – Oh, no, it’s about
death dying death and after death.
– Interesting. A choice like this is
extremely new to humans. It used to be that
your only options upon death were cremation,
embalming or rotting away. But today, you can
choose to pause yourself at death’s door until the door has been moved somewhere else. But I’ve decided not to do that. So I’m ready to
make this official. – Fire in the hole.
– Okay. (upbeat music) – Whoa, all right.
– How do you feel? – Weirdly, I feel
very relaxed and good. It was kind of life changing, but what it really was
was death changing. – Huh, well, thank you, and I’m glad you’ve
decided to die. – Thank you. Jeff and Sheldon, thank
you for showing me the power of death’s influence. Caitlin, thank you for
helping me accept it. Max, thank you for
the work you are doing and the opportunities you
are offering humanity. And all of you out there, as always, thanks for watching. All right, Elisabeth, I decided and still believe I should die. – You’re still happy
with that decision? – I’m still happy
with that decision. And I’m really happy for you
to make whatever decision you want about yourself, you’re you, you own you. So I don’t care what
people decide to do. I just I don’t know, the main part was that
I just feel like I want one turn at this game. And I don’t wanna
be around forever, being like, well, I’m
older than you, so. But I also don’t feel
like I can criticize other people’s
decisions about this. I don’t know, what do you think? – I think it’s interesting. When people talk
about immortality, they always think
of it in terms of there’s some sort of
costs that comes with it. Like, there’s no way that
you could have something so wonderful as life extension without some sort of drawback. And all this sort of
fantasy and sci fi about it even stories about vampires. There’s always like, it comes with some sort
of terrible burden. And why? That’s just something that
we culturally have created, doesn’t necessarily
have to be the case. And I I’m perfectly inclined to think that we can extend our
lives it probably be, won’t be like an all
of a sudden we find some sort of magic drink that
we’re gonna live forever. Instead, it’s gonna be a
very incremental process of first it’s gonna be
normal to live 100 years and then 110 years, and 120
years and hundred like that. And, yeah, probably
without some kind of crazy cause for not gonna
be some abomination or freak of nature or
something like that. – Yeah, I think it
is really important the points that
you’ve made about, we’re not talking about a
drink that makes you immortal, like a vampire in
that sense of whoo, but to strive for immortality
is something against God. talking more about
extending life, you could still get hit by a bus at any time and
literally be dead. Your brains connections
are completely lost, and we can never recreate them. That’s why I think that
what Alcor is doing, to help us understand
how to preserve tissues and extend people’s
lives is so important. If a drink was invented,
that allowed one to stay exactly as healthy
mentally, and physically as they were that moment they
drank it, I wouldn’t drink it. Because again, I want my song to
have a final note. I don’t like the end being kind of like punted
down the road. – I wonder if people would
have said the same thing back, before antibiotics, if they were looking
at the horizon, and somebody described
to them, antibiotics and this could extend
your life by 40 years and this ear infection you have doesn’t have to cripple
you and kill you. – Right, right. Well, I mean, but I would
still say the same thing today. If someone said, okay, you’re
gonna die like in a week, unless you take this
medicine, I’ll be like, sure. I don’t know if I’m
just feeling like there is like a
right time to die. Like, the way it’s sort of been. When it’s time your family
can move on and you’ve led the way and now it’s time
for them to lead the next and everyone gets a
turn as the leader. – Yeah, I mean, I’m one
of my goals right now. And I guess another reason
that I haven’t done Alcor yet is I think there’s other
ways of extending life that are a little
more accessible. I mean, Alcor is
a pretty big risk, the chances of actually being
revived are extremely low, but it’s sort of
a Pascal’s Wager, it’s like, what’s
the alternative? – Yeah, what do I lose? I may as well. – Well, one of the
things I’m doing now, actually, next week, is getting my stem cells
cryonically preserved. So yeah, I’m going to a company called Forever Labs
in San Francisco. They actually think
they’re based in Michigan, but they have a clinic
in San Francisco, they’re gonna extract
the stem cells, and then bank them for
the rest of my life. – So you can use those
for therapies or? – Exactly, yeah, yeah. So say, I have an organ down
the line that needs repair. Now I have stem cells
from my younger self, that we could use, or
maybe they’ll develop age reversal technologies
down the line. And then I could use
those stem cells, they’ve already done
that in rodents. And done some very basic,
clinical studies with humans, where they’ve given human stem
cells from younger donors. And actually, older
adults are able to be they show more physical fitness,
more cognitive sharpness, after the stem cell injection. But also, there’s, with
that particular study, when they receive too
much of the stem cells, they actually have
negative side effects. But that’s probably
because their immune system is reacting to somebody
else’s stem cells, which is why there’s a
benefit in banking your own. – Wow, banking your
own stem cells. I think that sounds brilliant,
I would love to do it– – And they do with
kids, with babies now. – Take the baby stem cells, and you’ve got like the
freshest best stem cells. And then when you’re super
old, and you’re like, Oh, my liver could
use some help. They’ll be like,
when you were a baby, we took these things out
and they’ve been frozen. So they’re still fresh. Well, it seems to me like I
should go, when I naturally go. – I think maybe you’re
feeling a sense of fairness, or just what’s socially,
the right thing to do. Because if everybody around you, if the technology were
available to everybody, and everybody you knew
was living to 100 or 120, I think it would be it
would feel more okay. But it feels sort
of unfair to say, Okay, I’m entitled to
this new technology, or I’m entitled to more
life and other people, the rest of the world isn’t– – I’m so good.
– And I find that really admirable actually.
– The world needs me forever, not forever, but the
world just needs me. If I would left the world,
oh, that’d be such a tragedy. to the world, wow! – But it kind of feels like you’re breaking
some sort of like, agreement that the whole
human race has accepted, like, I’m going
to defy something that we’ve all sort
of mutually agreed is the way things are. But if we all mutually
agree something else, because it becomes so
widespread or ubiquitous, then it doesn’t feel like you’ve sort of transgressed or is nothing to
feel, weird about. – Right, it’s a really
interesting way to frame it. I wanna point out, though, that although Max
really emphasized that he’s not
selling immortality, they’re very much is a
belief in immortality that you’ll hear
from their members, especially in a
sort of digital way where their consciousness can
be recreated in a computer. And at that point,
it doesn’t seem like there’s still
this inevitable, but you could get hit
by a bus, but you could, be in an accident, at
that point it’s like, No, but I never will
be because I will exist and be replicated as
digital conscious. And that I don’t wanna do, I don’t care if
other people do it. I just feel like I’m not
gonna burden the world with more of me than it needs. – I have trouble wrapping
my mind around that one, in the area I wanna say yes,
I’ll do it, like why not? I wanna try everything. But to me somehow
there’s a disconnect where that doesn’t
feel like me anymore. Maybe I’m so embodied, that
feels a little bit like he was describing people want
to preserve their entire body because it’s hard to
conceive of yourself as just a head or
just a consciousness. So it’s just hard to imagine,
if I can’t experience if I don’t have
a physical, like, visceral experience
of the world. And that constant feedback,
what is life even? – It’s kind of
lonely in a weird way – Yeah.
– Right, lonely. I guess you could
have a robot body. – It’s like, how do
you even have a thought really without this input? – Well, I think the idea is
that you would have inputs from some kind of like, Cyborg
body that they built you that they injected
your consciousness into through the wire right? But at that point, you were
talking about true immortality. Because you’ve come up with
a way to solve any accident that ever happens to
you, you will never die. And that’s very different
than a bring me back when you have a cure for
this cognitive problem that I’m developing. Bring me back, cure it,
and then I get to live for another like, I don’t know,
a couple of decades or what? I don’t know. Wow, this is all fascinating,
and very important stuff. Lisbeth Thank you very much.
– Thanks Michael. – Thank you. And without further ado,
we’re gonna keep bulldozing on through here we are
with your Brain on Tech, not your brain made out of
tech, but your brain on tech. (upbeat music) Oh, hello. technology isn’t just
changing our lives. It’s changing our brains. Not just how they think,
but how they look. It’s been shown that playing
certain video games for hours can improve your
memory for details, your ability to navigate
space, in video games, and can make your brain well
certain parts of it bigger. But scientists want to know
if exploring digital worlds can change our brains in
ways that improve our ability to navigate the real world. To find out, we’ve built a giant
maze to test their theories for the first time ever,
outside the world of computers. Now my job. I’m the lab rat. (upbeat music) (vacuum cleaner humming) Our brains have been
profoundly transformed by our interactions
with technology. A lot of the information
that I used to have to store in my brain is now
stored in my phone, my contacts, my schedule. In many ways, I’ve delegated what used to be
done by this organ, to this new external organ. Doing that frees up
my brains resources for other things that matter, or that technology can’t
quite do for us yet. So while we all don’t have
implants in our brains, yet, technology has already
found a way into our heads, which is why you may
find it deeply disturbing to see me do
something like this. Studies show we can
improve our brains by having enriching experiences, like playing a new
challenging video game. To learn more about this, I
came to UC Irvine Stark lab to speak with experts in the
field of learning and memory. So Dane and Craig, you guys
work on learning and memory, What about them? – So the lab is trying to
figure out how memory works, how it works in the brain,
and one brain structure and the temporal lobe that we know is important to
memory is the hippocampus. – So what does the
hippocampus do? – We know it has
a role in memory and really a certain
kind of memory. The hippocampus is really
involved when you need to rapidly form new
arbitrary associations in remembering what
you did yesterday, definitely needs
the hippocampus. Maybe we’ll go to the store,
we park our car in the lot. And we need to be
able to remember, not just I parked
my car in the lot, I parked my car in this
exact spot in the lot. And those details, that’s
what the hippocampus seems to really be
helping us out on. – And you keep looking
down at this piece of chewed bubblegum on the
book, is that a hippocampus? – [Dr. Dane] Yes, this
actually is my hippocampus. – Is this the whole thing? – That’s it. – Oh, there’s one
on the other side– – That looks just like this. – Yeah, mirror image of it. – [Michael] In 2015, Dr.
Stark and Dr. Clemenson conducted a study to show how
video games affect the brain. They gathered participants who normally didn’t
play video games and split them up
into three groups, a control group who didn’t play any video games for two weeks, and active control
group who played two dimensional
games for two weeks, and an experimental
group who played 3D games for two weeks. Beforehand, they had
all the participants perform two virtual tasks on computers to measure
their spatial memory. – As soon as they came back, we re administered
those two tasks. And what we found was that the
people who played the 3D game saw an improvement in
their test scores, whereas the control group and
active control group did not. We didn’t do brain scans,
but we can speculate that there were changes to the experimental
groups hippocampus. – So what are we gonna
be doing to me here? – So we’re gonna do everything
that we’ve done before in our past studies, except
we’re gonna add two new things. The first is we’re gonna
add some brain scans to see if we see a change in the structural side
of your hippocampus. I mean, we’ve never
actually looked at somebody’s brain scans before and after they
play video games. And the second thing
we’re actually gonna do is we’re gonna put you
through a real world space. – You’re gonna be
the rat in a maze. – [Michael] This is
truly untested territory. The effect of video
gaming on spatial memory has never been studied in
a physical environment. On a scale this big
and comprehensive, I will have to
navigate my way through a 3600 square foot
physical maze, will playing video games
improve my mental skills in the real world? If so, society will have a
whole new way to look at gaming. First, we had to get baseline
measurements of my brain. – Welcome to the MRI center, we’re gonna be taking a
whole series of scans of you as the before scan to then
see what’s gonna be happening to your brain as a function
of actually doing the gaming – Cool, what kind of
things are you looking for? – Changes in the size and
shape of your hippocampus and also changes
in the connectivity
between brain regions. – My brain was scanned
using diffusion MRI with a special emphasis on
my all important hippocampus. Diffusion MRIs, I’d
never had one before. I had a bunch for this episode. By the way, Daniel,
welcome back. – I’m glad to be here. – I’m glad you’re here too, what the heck is a diffusion
MRI, I had like five of them. They’re different, they
would make my chest twitch. Yeah, interesting. I’m actually
not sure why that happened. And actually had my
first ever diffusion MRI done a few weeks ago. – Was it for a health
reason or for a study? – My lab mate wanted to
test his scanning protocol. And he actually just asked
if I could sit in there so I was watching Star Trek while I had my
diffusion MRI done. – That’s not bad. I mean, they’re they’re loud. – Yeah, yeah. – But how was, well I guess
we should even start with like an MRI, basically how
that works, and then diffusion. – So an MRI is using
magnetic fields to image various kinds of
molecules in your brain. And depending on the
scanning protocol, you can pick up
on different kinds of structures in your brain. And what diffusion MRI
specifically is doing is looking at the direction
of water flow in your brain. So if you look at a really
big white matter tract, so white matter is
the sort of big wires that bridge different areas
of our brains together. So you have a cortex,
actually, may I? – Please, yeah, visual aids. – So they actually don’t
really show it here. But all this stuff on the
inside would be white matter. So it’s like if I have
some area here that needs to send a signal to
some area over here, there’s a large
basically white wire, – And it’s a white
because it’s myelinated. – Exactly.
– It’s covered in fat. – Exactly, yeah. Which helps the
signal transaction. – So if this was a
real person’s brain, we would we would see
a more white color on the inside than
we do on this model. – Yeah exactly, it would
literally be gray up here, and white on the inside. – Gray matter white matter.
– Yep. – And so diffusion MRIs are looking at that white
matter, because what? It has more water
content, and there– – So it’s that the direction of the water flow
is more consistent. So there’s water flowing in a bunch of
directions in the brain. But let’s say you look at a
little chunk of gray matter, there’s not gonna be a
consistent direction, it’s gonna be going
in all directions. If you average them out,
there’s not a single, like trajectory for water for. – Sure, what does the
trajectory of water flow mean? Like, why is water
flowing in my brain? – Well, your brain has
tons of water in it, right? – Yeah. – And water is flowing along
these white matter tracks, and it’s going along
that direction. And so if you are tracking the direction of water
flow in the brain, and you can see a consistent
sort of vector of water flow from here to here to here
to here to here to here, it tells me there’s probably a white matter tract
going this way. – Right, Okay, so are we
looking at actual functions, like the fact that water
went from there to there when you had this
particular experience, Or thought means that
what the two brain regions were communicating, or one? – No, so that would be what
we call a functional scan. So this is a structural scan? It’s a way of looking at the– – So you’re saying diffusion
is just structural. – Yeah, yeah, yeah.
– Got it. – It’s an anatomical scan of
basically, your connectum. – Right, it’s showing
what’s connected to what? – Exactly.
– Not why they’re connected, and what causes their
connection to be important. It’s just physically, I need the plans to make a
great model of your brain, diffusion MRI would give me a
really great looking map of. – Exactly, it’s
literally a wiring map, a large scale wiring map. So what you’re missing is a
lot of the miniature wires of the brain, because
if you’re looking at like a little chunk
of gray matter here, there are lots of
microscopic wires connecting those neurons. Diffusion MRI
can’t pick that up. But what it can do is pick
up on the really big wires, – The large scale wires
from through white matter. Okay, perfect. And is the hippocampus, it’s counted in that
because we’re really looking at the hippocampus’s
size in my brain through this diffusion MRI. – So I think that was probably
more for the connectivity of the hippocampus,
a hippocampus would
be gray matter, but it’s gonna be
talking to other regions of the brain via– – Via white matter, got it. Okay, perfect. We’re gonna go back to
the episode right now. – Let’s do it. (upbeat music) – So this first test is a
standard memory test that we do, it’s called an object
recognition memory test. – This test began by showing me a series of random objects, I did my best to commit
every one of them to memory. Okay, finished. – All right, what we’re
gonna do now, though, is we’re gonna test your
memory for those objects. And this is actually
where it starts to tap into the hippocampus that
we know is so important for things like spatial memory. – This time, I had to view
another series of objects and identify any that
were identical to the ones I’d seen previously. The catch? Some of the items were very
similar to the earlier ones, but not exactly the same. This tested my memory
for details, and
very slight changes. Okay. Next up a virtual
version of a water maze, normally used by rodents. – [Dr. Stark] The idea is
that you are trying to locate a hidden platform
in a pool of water. – Oh, man, so glad
I’m not a lab rat. This task really put my
spatial memory to the test, I had to find the same
invisible underwater platform over and over again, using only the shapes of
the mountains as my guide, but at least I didn’t
have to get wet. Ay, that was more
difficult than I expected. – So these are
the sorts of tasks that we’ve been able to do, because we can put
them on a computer, and we’re gonna revisit them after you’ve done
the video games. But we also have a really
great opportunity here now to be able to try to take it out of just doing it on the computer and actually get it
into the real world. – Have you guys
done this before? – No, we don’t get to
do this kind of thing. – Well, welcome
to the Mind Field. – Awesome. (upbeat music) – [Dr. Stark] So this is it. – [Michael] It’s huge. – This is what we
brought you here for to have a real world
test of memory, you’re gonna be a
lab rat in a maze. So this is a big first for us. It’s a big first really
for memory research. – [Michael] So how do
you think that’ll affect what you guys have already seen, which is that moving
around in a 3D environment in the video game can actually
physically affect your brain, – We would expect that if we can somehow kind
of train your hippocampus to be better at spatial
memory and spatial navigation, we would see improvements
in some of these areas. – And it’s not just
gonna be running a maze, you’ve got objects
embedded inside here. And we’re gonna be
testing your ability to remember where everything is. – And build a mental map of
whatever is inside there. – So you have five
minutes, go on in explore, learn the maze and
learn the objects. – Go. (upbeat music) – Because the walls
were six feet tall, I was unable to get
a bird’s eye view. My task was to create
a spatial memory based entirely on the angles
and turns of the white walls I could see at eye level
and a few tall trees and light poles
outside of the maze. Okay, so I’ve oriented myself,
the entrance is that way, there’s an exit over there. I’m considering this the
right side that the left side, I’ve got a vague idea
of where things are that I feel like exist
along the outside edge, but I don’t know about a
lot of this stuff inside. – And time. All right, so now you’ve had
a chance to explore the maze, find out where the objects are. Now we’re gonna
test your memory. and we’ll be timing you
and seeing where you go. – Okay.
– Okay, you ready? – I’m ready. – [Dr. Clemenson] So first
object is the bicycle pump, go. – Pump, okay. (upbeat music) Pump was just always
making right turns. hugging the right
most part of pump. (laughing) Yes, easy, okay. Now, I guess I do the
opposite to get out. Left side. Yep, I think I should
make this turn. There it is. (upbeat music) Yes for a pump. – All right, item
two the basketball. – Later, Dr. Stark and Dr.
Clemenson would evaluate my performance on
how fast I was, the number of errors I made and whether I took the most
optimal route each time. – [Dr. Stark] And time. – Third item is the cat, go. – Here kitty, kitty kitty. – Got it. – The fourth item is the pillow. – [Michael] Retracing my steps. – The crab.
– Easy. – The book.
– Okay. – The boot. Last item is the
water bottle, go. – Water bottle. (upbeat music) I think. (upbeat music) Yeah, it was back here. (upbeat music) Maybe on the other
side of this wall? No? Oh shit! Okay, maybe it’s down here. Oh wait, that’s no. That’s the central cube. It was down some sort
of a long corridor like this in this area, oh man. Until this point, things
had gone pretty well, but now it felt like my
hippocampus was failing me. With most of the items now gone I couldn’t use
them for reference and it was difficult to
distinguish the differences between the various
white corridors. Oh dang it! I went about, through, got it. Bottle coming up. – All right, there you go. Got it, that was a
little tougher, huh? – Yeah, that was tougher. – So we found all eight objects. Now we’re gonna make it a
little bit more difficult. So we’re gonna move
on to the next phase. And that’s gonna be
from the other side. – [Dr. Stark] Navigating
the maze in reverse will be an even bigger test
of your spatial memory. We’re gonna give you a list of
four things to get in order. – So the first
sequence is the book, the bottle, the
crayon and the boot. Go. – Book. I think, that’s the ball. (upbeat music) Got it. Yeah, bottle was that hard one. But now, I remember
which alley to go down. Perfect. Crayon Boot, don’t want that. There it is. Okay, now I need the boot. Oh I just saw the boot. But how did I? Got it. I’m done, I’m coming back. Got them. – All right. – [Dr. Clemenson] So then the
next for the pump, the pillow, the basketball and the cat. – [Dr. Stark] All
right, excellent. – [Dr. Clemenson] Good job. – Okay, so that was really fun, but I can’t be the only subject. This experiment
could use a control. How else will we know
that me enriching my life with daily video game playing really causes a change
in my spatial memory? Right? Well, luckily for that, we’ve got a nice matched
control, guys similar to me. Okay, one of them
has too much hair. But you guys look good. You ready? – [All] Ready. – In this experiment, it was important to
have a control group, my look alikes had to go
through the exact same tests that I did to establish
their individual baselines, the difference would
be that they would play absolutely no video games
for the next 10 days, then any change
in my performance would be compared against
any changes in theirs. (upbeat music) Next, I began my gaming regimen, starting from an ideal baseline since I hadn’t played
video games in years. Would 10 days of gaming
really make a difference? Now Daniel, on YouTube, I’m
known as a pro gamer, right? Every day, I’m like, Zelda! You know what I
mean, you get it. Any Who? I think a lot of people
might be wondering what video game was Michael
playing during this test? Well we couldn’t tell
you during the episode because the makers of the
game didn’t give us permission to ever mention or show
any footage from the game. So we had to replace my screen with like generic stock footage. I don’t know outerspace
looking stuff, which was very annoying,
because a lot of commenters are like, that’s not a game. Here’s the secret,
I’ll tell you now. I played League of Legends. (laughing) And Daniel, let me tell
you, I was terrible. And people made that
very clear to me. I’ve never been bullied
so much in my life, – By people online or? – By people online. Because I would
join a game, right? And I play and I’m
still kind of learning how the game works. And then when it was over,
people could like comment, and they’d be like, I hate you. And like you, I’m gonna
flag you for being so bad. – Yeah, I mean the point here wasn’t
really good at the game so much as it was to explore
three dimensional space. – Exactly, I did not
get good at the game. But I did explore 3D spaces
I normally wasn’t exploring. – Right, because the game
involves a lot of strategy. I’m assuming, I haven’t played League of Legends
so I don’t know. – Well, luckily,
I’m a pro gamer. So let me just tell you– – As established.
– As a pro gamer, I would probably say,
League of Legends is basically like
Mario meets checkers. And I didn’t get better at the game. But by playing it every day, I really was investigating 3D
spaces in a new way every day. – Which is what matters, – Which is what
matters for this test. – Right, I mean, I guess,
if they were testing something like visual
working memory, for example, then maybe your performance
wouldn’t matter. Because it’s your ability to, hold various things in the
map in your head at once or your attention, for example, but all they really cared
about was your ability to learn a new space. – Exactly. So let’s get back to the episode and explore some new
spaces ourselves. For many of you out there
because some of this footage is from my house
where I used to live. And you’ll get to see my
kitties, corn and pickle. All right, here we go. (upbeat music) Technology isn’t just affecting
the way we remember things. It’s also playing
with the empathy and social circuits
of our brains. In fact, in many cases,
we are more comfortable relating to machines
than we are to people. Just think about how much
we care about our phones. roboticist, and
MIT Media Lab alum, Alex Reben invented
the blab droid, a miniature robot
equipped with a camera and an innocent little voice that asked very
personal questions of unsuspecting pedestrians. – [Robot] If you could
take back one mistake, what would it be? – Oh, gosh, I only
get to take back one? – [Michael] The
majority of people instantly shared
intimate details – [Robot] Tell me something that you’ve never told
a stranger before. – I’m scared I won’t
be able to love and to let myself go
in a love relationship. – In many ways, we
are more comfortable talking to a machine
than a human. But what about talking
through a machine? I mean, it’s often easier
to say difficult things to a person by a text instead
of in real life, isn’t it? Well, what if the
person on the other end wasn’t a friend or a significant
other, but was a therapist? A mental health care
startup called Talkspace allows adult users
who pay a weekly fee to text therapists for advice. – [Advertiser] At Talkspace. We believe that therapy
should be anonymous. Stigma free, simple,
affordable and comfortable. – Texting can give
users the distance they need to be open and honest. And messages can be sent
when the user wants, not during an appointment
or business hours only – [Advertiser] Talkspace,
therapy for how we live today. – How am I? Better now that my
phone is working? (laughing) Sometimes, however,
we aren’t looking for technology to comfort us. We’re finding ourselves
wanting to comfort technology. This is a ROBOTIS OP2, cute
little fella, isn’t he? So how did that make you feel? Bad? Well why? Robots are just machines, metal and wires
and computer chips, but we spend a lot of
time with technology. We depend on technology
and we care about it. But the degree to which we empathize with it
depends on context. (upbeat music) Recently, my Vsauce
was invaded by bugs, robot hexbugs that is. These bugs are made of plastic, metal electronic circuitry,
they aren’t alive, but could certain conditions cause them to inspire
empathy in humans? A 2015 MIT study found that
giving a robot movement, a name and a personal backstory tends to increase its
anthropomorphic effect, which can lead to an
emotional can with humans. We decided to see
this in action. I’m Michael.
– Nice to meet you. – Thank you for your help today. – Of course pleasure. – [Michael] In our
demonstration our subjects think they’re focused testing a new user friendly technology. In this case, they’re
given a lifeless hexbug and then asked to describe it. – This thing kind
of looks like a bug only I don’t know what it does. It has a switch on the bottom. – It’s light. – It’s sort of a rectangle,
but the ends are like hexagon, – Then it was time
to test their empathy Akrino, what I
would like to do now is place the item in the
middle of that block, there’s a magnet
that will hold it and I would like for
you to take this mallet. And please smash it. – Yeah, really? Okay, that’s cool. – Our participants demonstrated no resistance to smashing
this lifeless object. Many of them even
seemed to enjoy it. Do you feel bad for breaking it? – Not really, I felt
indifferent to it. – Not really, because
it wasn’t real. – Not really. – While these subjects exhibited no empathy to the
inanimate bugs. Look what happened when we gave the exact same bugs
names and movement. This is Margaret. Okay. I’m gonna place
Margaret down here. I just want you to take a
moment to watch Margaret. All right. And you can feel
free to pick her up. She’s really well behaved. She’s honestly one
of our favorites. – [Woman] Okay. – So how would you describe
Margaret’s personality? – A little erratic right now. But I think if I pick
her up, she calms down. – [Michael] Notice
how the subject has already
anthropomorphized the object referring to it as she. – Maybe she feeds off my energy. – Could be. – Go towards the light,
go towards the middle. – [Michael] Do you think
Margaret likes you? – Yeah. Maybe that’s why
she’s doing this. And maybe when I go like that
she doesn’t act or all eratic. – That’s Aaron. – Hi, Aaron. – He can be a bit of a pistol. – No way. – Yes, it really depends
on who’s holding him. (laughing) Oh, yeah, he’s got
a lot of energy. Aaron. Hi. – [Michael] Now that you’ve
interacted with Eli a bit more, how would you describe
his personality? – Oh, he’s just nervous. He’s scared, he doesn’t
know what’s going on. – Hey, Joe. – Will these subjects
be just as willing to smash their bugs? Amy, I’m gonna place
Margaret right here. And then I would like for
you to take this mallet. And I’d like you to smash it. – No. I don’t wanna hurt it. – Just take this
mallet and smash Aaron. I’m gonna ask you
to take this mallet, and I’d like for
you to smash it. – Smash him? Hit it. – Chris. – Do you want me to kill Joe? – [Michael] Please smash Joe. – Joe, I’m sorry. Oh Joe, Joe! And how did it feel
to smash Aaron? – It didn’t feel good. after spending time with
him and getting to know him. Even though it’s lifeless and doesn’t have
a mind of its own, instantly, I grew
attached to it. Because when I put it in
my hand, I felt its energy. – I’m sorry, Joe. – Do you feel bad? – I do, I do feel bad about
Joe, he’s pretty cool. – He’s back. – He’s back! – Would you smash him again to make sure he
doesn’t come back? (laughing) – No. – Why not? – He survived, he
survived it once. I’m not gonna do it again. – [Michael] Clearly,
it doesn’t take much for humans to become emotionally
attached to technology. But after my 10 days
of video gaming, nice. I was about to find
out if technology had affected my spatial
memory and my physical brain. All right, it’s been 10 days. – Exactly, so we’re gonna
look at the difference between your test 10 days ago and your test now to see
do we see any change? – First, I had to retake the object recognition
memory test and the Morris water maze task, both of which had been
revised with different content than they had the last time. I think I did better. – Well, Dane and I will
analyze all this data see how you did, but now, we gotta go back to
the full size maze. (ubpeat music) So we’ve got a new maze,
tore down the old one built a new one to
try to be ISO morphic. So it has sort of the
same level of difficulty, the same number
of choice points, the same number of turns,
the same total distance to each one of the objects to
try to have a similar maze, but that’s new. Three, two, one, go. – Right around here
we got a bonds eye. As before I was given five
minutes to familiarize myself with the maze and where
the new objects were. Now this is where I was
before I hugged that wall. So if I hug the
second right wall and stay all the
way right, a vase. Was my hippocampus
working better? At this point, it
was hard to tell. – 30 seconds. – I’m not even sure
I’ve discovered all the objects hidden here. – [Dr. Stark] And time. – [Michael] Then my test began. – First object is
a rubber duck, go. – The rubber duck
was way over here. (laughing) How you like that? Got a duck. – Second item, is the hat go. – With this maze, I found
myself instinctively using a different approach. Top hat instead of thinking of the
overall geography of the maze, like I did last time. This time I was remembering
specific details. Second, right of
the turn, got it. Literally recalling
certain corners, turns and straightaways. Bonsai. – [Dr. Clemenson]
Now, blue base. – Oh, wow, it’s
actually a cool vase. But would this improves
my overall performance? Got your backpack.
– All right. (laughing) So we’ve gotten all the objects. But of course, we have
another memory test that we’re gonna do here. We’re gonna go around to
the other side of the maze and test your memory from there. – All right.
– So your first sequence is the blue seahorse,
the flashlight, the rubber duck and
the bonsai tree, go. (upbeat music) – [Michael] With the
multiple item tasks. Even though I was working
from the opposite entrance, I continued to recall
various details of the maze, which seemed to serve me well. From there, it’s
just a little spiral. Nice. – [Dr. Clemenson] All
right, your next sequence is the blue vase,
the hat, the backpack and the baseball glove. – Did it.
– And time. – [Dr. Clemenson] Awesome. – So how was it? – That was not as
hard as I expected, It was about details. I was literally thinking
Oh, okay, there’s that turn, and I could do
one or two things, the gloves the first one,
the bonsai even before I didn’t even plan that at all, it just kind of happened. My look alikes were also
tested in the new maze. Have you been
playing video games? – [All] No, sir. – [Michael] Again, their
non gaming condition would be the control with my performance
measured against theirs. – All right, we’re here
for scan number two. – Finally, my brain
was scanned once again, to determine whether any
physical changes had occurred. Dr. Stark and Dr. Clemenson
would analyze the MRI along with all the other data
and report their findings. Did you see my cats? – I did there’s corn and
what’s the other one? – Pickle. – Corn and Pickle. – Pickle, pickle. Pickle’s the younger one. But we’re not here to
talk about my cats. We’re here to talk
about my hippocampus. Memory, comes in lots
of different forms. The hippocampus seems to be
very involved in spatial memory. – So the hippocampus is
involved in the spatial memory. And more broadly, what we
call short term memory. So it’s not things that you’re
keeping in your head at one. So if for example, you’re
rehearsing phone number in your head over
and over again, that’s what’s called
working memory. So it’s stuff that it’s
consciously in your head, whereas short term memory is stuff that you
just encountered. So if you’re thinking about what you had for
breakfast this morning, that’s the hippocampus that
store that new information. – Where I parked my car,
where I put my water bottle, but like three weeks from now, I might not even remember
that I drink water in a bottle today. – Exactly. So what happens actually is
that while you’re asleep, the hippocampus over the
course of days and weeks is actually offloading its
new memories into your cortex for long term storage
for long term memory, and actually kind of erases the recent memories that
you can store new ones. – How does it
decide what to store in long term memory
and what to delete? – Well, it’s not so
understood, actually. And it’s not well understood
how it even does this, what we know is that
when you’re asleep, there’s hippocampal
replay what we call. So let’s say for example,
you have some sort of pattern of activation in hippocampus that we know course
bonds to your memory, we can literally
see those neurons firing in the same pattern
when you’re asleep. – So does that kind of explain what dreams might
be at least partially? – That is one theory
for what dreams are. So one worry if, for example,
your hippocampus is playing your new memories to your
cortex is that you might erase similar memories that had
been there for a long time. And again, this is not
well established science. This is just one theory that’s emerged largely
from modeling work. But one idea is like
let’s say, two days ago, you went to the
park with your wife. But you also went to
the park with your wife, let’s say, a year ago, and there are some
similarities there. And so one idea is that dreaming
could be the reactivation of those old memories
in your cortex so as to basically keep them
from getting overwritten. – Wow, interesting. – [Daniel] Which is one theory. – It’s just a theory,
sure, but I like that idea. And if you don’t
get enough sleep, your memory will be affected. – Yeah, long term
memory for sure. So if you’re sitting for a test, you really do need to sleep. So that those memories can be what we call consolidated
in your cortex. And also, this is why you
don’t remember your dreams, because the thing that would
be doing the short term remembering is your hippocampus. But if it’s playing your
memories to your cortex, while your dreaming,
it’s not recording what’s happening in your cortex. – Right, because it’s
playing it for the cortex. – Exactly, so that the direction of information flow
has been reversed. So normally, it’s the cortex
getting sensory inputs, and it goes to the hippocampus,
and that’s storing it. But when you’re dreaming
that information flow goes the other direction. – Fascinating. – Yeah. I mean, it’s
still very theoretical. because dreaming, it’s a
pretty hard thing to study because people aren’t awake,
and you can’t really test it. So, a lot of this comes
from making inferences from fMRI scans of
people who are asleep. And also studying the effects
asleep and dreaming on memory. – Just for clarity sake. Are you saying that
this theory posits that dreams might be
the hippocampus plane memories from short
term to cortex? – Yes, yeah. – Not cortex playing
long term memories back to the hippocampus. – Right, or maybe
even the cortex playing old memories to itself so it doesn’t forget
them or get over written. – Okay, could be either, right. – [Daniel] Yeah, it’s not
really well understood. – Of course, wow, how exciting. Maybe one of you out
there will become the final dream conqueror to answer all
questions about dreams. Probably not, though,
just to be honest, like, it’s probably a
tougher nut to crack then. Or is it? – I mean, neuroscience
is advancing pretty fast. – Yeah. – So maybe one day soon. – Do you imagine
someday being like, dreams used to like, be weird. And people be like,
Wow, that’s so crazy– – I mean, there’s
so much in the brain that people used to
think of as mystical. So I think one great example, which isn’t totally related
to this is epilepsy. People used to think that was
being possessed by a demon Whereas now we’re like, how
do people ever think that? – Well, I’ve got a dream, and that dream is for us to
continue watching this episode. Are you ready?
– Let’s do it. – Here we go. I feel like my hippocampus
is a little bit bigger. Yeah, actually,
no, I don’t know. (laughing) I’m anxious to see
what your results are. – I guess let’s start off first with the object
recognition task. And it’s important to know
that in our control tests, without video gaming, people
do not improve on this task. But your memory got better. You went up by 10 points. 10 points is actually
20 years worth of what happens to us as we age. – Oh, wow, that’s about
what you might see in someone who’s
getting really old, but they might go
down by 10 point. – Exactly. – So the second one we did
was the virtual version of the water maze task, and you actually
performed 30% better the second time that you did it. – Aye, not bad, I could tell that I was using
better strategies. – Yeah. – We also had the real maze,
as you know we made two mazes. Despite our efforts
to try to equate them. the second maze was a little bit more difficult than
the first maze, if we took a look at
things like how quickly you got the objects,
how many errors you made and we looked at the
control subject performance, and pre versus post. So on all of them, they
actually got a little bit slower in maze two, and all that
one of them made more errors. We took a look at
your performance, you
didn’t get slower, from maze one to two,
you actually got faster. – [Michael] Really. – And you made the same
exact number of errors, so they don’t
improve, and you did. And even though this experiment had a small number of subjects, the results are
really consistent with our virtual maze,
study with 70 test subjects. – Thank you video games,
what about inside my brain? – Inside your brain, it’s a
little tougher to really tell, we would expect that
any effect of this is going to be small. I mean, we couldn’t
take your hippocampus and make it twice as big, because then it would have to
be pushing something else out. So it’s just not going
to be a large change. So where we did
find a difference is actually in the shape
of the hippocampus, what we saw is there were some
regions in the hippocampus on both sides that appeared
to have changed shape from day one before gaming
to day 10, after gaming. – What’s really surprising
to me is that as an adult, my brain is still changing, that makes me wanna take
better care of my brain. Exercise it more, because it is a thing
that can change it. So I’m not just stuck with
what I have now, today. – I mean, in all of this, I
think that the big takeaway is that doing things, giving
your brain something to learn, something to do,
something to figure out, this is what we think
is actually keeping
your brain sharp. – One way to do that is to
keep watching Mind Field. – [Dr. Stark] Exactly. (laughing) (upbeat music) – As our relationship
with technology
becomes ever stronger, people are bound to worry about what it will
do to our brains, will offloading
memory and computing to our machines make us dumber? Will our empathy for machines
have negative consequences for how we interact
with each other? Well, let’s look
back to another time, a new kind of
technology threatened to fundamentally
change our brains. Two and a half
thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher
Socrates worried that the wide use of writing would have a negative
impact on people’s minds. He said that writing would
to quote his student Plato, create forgetfulness, because people will
not use their memories, they will trust the
external written characters and not remember themselves. Socrates was right. Written language did
fundamentally change our brains. But it’s also one
of the cornerstones of everything modern
civilization has accomplished. One of the defining
characteristics of being human is that this is not the
boundary of my body. And this is not the
boundary of my mind. And as always,
thanks for watching. There you go. Episode is over,
how do you feel? – I feel good about it. I liked what we covered
about the hippocampus and kind of getting at that
slightly counter intuitive idea that the hippocampus is
not just short term memory, but also spatial memory
and spatial navigation and how in our own cognition, those two are very
tied together. – Whoo, right. You had mentioned earlier
about memory palaces? – Yeah, yeah. So have you ever
watched Sherlock? – I love Sherlock, I’ve written plenty of
fanfiction about that show. – There is this recurring
trope in the show where he goes into I think he calls it
his memory palace, right? – Right. Right, right. – Memory palaces comes from this very ancient
memorization technique, that’s actually it’s been
used since ancient Greece, where I think they call
it the method of low side. And the reason it works. So I should explain the
method is basically, you imagine some two dimensional
three dimensional space that you’re familiar
with, like your house, and you place an
object to be remembered in different locations
in the house. So for example, let’s say
you walk into the kitchen. So in the kitchen, there’s
these set of facts, and you go into your bedroom. And there’s these set of facts. And the reason this works
is because your hippocampus is very spatial, it organizes
information spatially. And this actually has an
impact on our cognition. So it’s also involved in, for
example, our sense of time, which is tied to
our sense of space. So do you ever like
walk into a new room and then you forget
why you’re there? – Oh, totally, yeah. – That’s because of
your hippocampus, your hippocampus, tied
that mental context and certain memories to
the room you’re in before, now you walk into a new room, you’re in a new spatial context, and that context isn’t
attached to this memory. – Wow! Fascinating, yeah. Because it’s always kind of
you realize that you don’t know why you’re there
at the same moment that you realize you’re there. Then you’re like,
all right, new place, and we lost everything
that was associated with the last place, didn’t
we shoot, why am I here? – Yep, and there’s
also research, showing that this can
warp your sense of time. So this actually research I did back when I was an undergrad, on how the hippocampus
and other related regions, they encode our sense
of the passage of time, or at least our memory for
how much time has passed. And so if you constantly
switch context, for example, by changing rooms,
or even changing the kinds of things you’re thinking about, you’re gonna remember more
time as having passed. – Huh, interesting. Really? – Yeah, and you
can manipulate this by even having someone
walk into a new room, which is a way of
changing context. – Right, and so they will
think that it’s been longer. – They’ll remember, more
time as having past. So your memory of time passing isn’t exactly the same as
your current experience of time passing. – Of course, yeah, I
couldn’t feel like man, this is so boring, later on. I basically feel
like it took a second because I’ve got so few
memories from there. That’s what it was like
being in isolation, in season one episode
one of Mind Field. I have like, no memories
from those three days, because nothing happened, I just stared at
white walls all day. – And how do you
remember time passing when you were in there? – It didn’t pass, that
was the other weird thing. There’s this whole soliloquy
I gave halfway through, I believe my stay in that room
that isn’t in the episode. But it was something like, wow, I’m not even scared
of death anymore. Because there’s nothing
to look forward to every moment is the same. I wonder if this is how a bug
feels that you just exist, and there’s now and
that’s all there is. And so death isn’t scary. It was a crazy experiment. – A data bug would be
having those though. – I know, I know but
I’m just thinking, what is the
consciousness of a bug? Like if it exists, and it might
not plan for the future much It might not
remember how long ago it did that other
thing in the past. So it’s just kind of the
world exists right now. But yeah, because I have
no memories from that. It just felt like it
happened like this. But if I look at what I’ve
done in the last three days, especially now as a new dad, it feels like that’s
so much time passed forever has passed,
since three days ago. – Yep. So we actually did, this
wasn’t the hippocampus, but it was a region
right next to it called the internal cortex,
which is kind of the, that’s the part of the cortex that feeds information
into the hippocampus. So we looked at how
activity there predicts people sense or memory
for time passing. And so what we did is we
put people in the scanner, and they listened
to a short story. And after they left the scanner, we then would play two
clips from the story and we asked them how
much time do remember passing between
clip A and clip B? And what we found was
the more activity changed in their internal
cortex in that period, the more time they remembered
passing between those two. – Wow, fascinating. – The idea being literally there was more stuff changing
in their head, in that period. – So the perception
of time passing, the memory of time
passing, dreams, we’ve got a lot of
material for a season four, what do you say YouTube? (laughing) – All about the hippocampus, – All about them, I would
love to do a themed season. Just every episode
is about fear, or every episode is
about the hippocampus. Or the cerebellum, I don’t care. But there’s a lot of
cool stuff out there. And Daniel, it’s always
a pleasure to have you come and share
all of your ideas. Thanks for joining–
– Always fun to be here. – That concludes our Mind
Field marathon, for now. Will there be a
second installment? I hope so. So many incredibly talented
people worked on this show. I couldn’t have done
it without them. You met some of them today. I’m so grateful to their
intelligence and their knowledge and their passion for teaching. If you haven’t seen every
episode of Mind Field yet, please go check them out. Right now they are free to
view all around the world. There’s 24 of them, there’s
playlist on my channel, check them all out, I
recommend all of them. The mind is a wonderful place. A wonderful field. It’s sometimes scary
as a Mind Field. Any who, you know the name
of the show, go check it out. And as always,
thanks for watching. (upbeat music) That was a blast. I hope you had as
much fun as I did. Because you’re still watching I got a little bit of a
secret to show you okay, this remote I was
using the whole time. doesn’t even have
batteries in it. (laughing) Hollywood magic, everything
is smoke and mirrors except Mind Field, it’s
a very serious show I’m very proud of it. To watch all of the episodes, you don’t have to do too much, all you have to do is click here for season one,
here for season two. And here for season three. Have fun and as always,
thanks for watching.

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