App could offer new understanding of human brain

Posted at 6:07 PM, Mar 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-08 21:07:14-05

A new app just released by CU Boulder could help researchers understand how the brain works and what role negative and positive thoughts have on brain function.

The app is called "Where's My Mind?" It's free to anyone who wants to participate and has an Android smart phone. The goal of the app is to study responses taken randomly four times a day to a series of questions. Those questions determine whether someone was actively thinking about the future, or just drifting, whether their thoughts were negative or positive and where the thoughts were happening among other random questions.

"Surprisingly little is known about our inner mental lives, and by that I mean our thoughts, our emotions, and the feelings that really make us unique as human beings," said Jessica Andrews-Hanna, research scientist for the CU Boulder Institute of Cognitive Science. "It allows people to kind of track, over days and weeks, what they're thinking about and kind of record that in this app."

Andrews-Hanna said they wanted to use an app because most brain research happens in a laboratory. They wanted to capture information from a more natural environment, the subjects' every day lives.

"[It's] to try to really piece together how daily thinking relates to well being," said Dr. Joanna Arch, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Arch thinks there might be a link between positive and negative thoughts and the way someone's brain works. One way they will test this is by taking some of the study's participants and conducting an MRI on them, seeing if people with negative thoughts have similar brain activity.

The study is still collecting data, so they aren't sure if their hypotheses will be conclusive. Currently, there are between 100 and 500 people using the app. Developers are working to make it available for the iPhone operating system, IOS.


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