While there is no doubt that technology can alter behaviour—there are many who turn to bullying online—can technology be used to correct behaviour as well? According to a new technique, called fMRI decoded neurofeedback (DecNef), it can. Developed by ATR Computational Neuroscience Lab in Japan, DecNef may not be as sophisticated as brain mapping and artificial intelligence that many are trying to fuse, but if it proves successful, it can certainly cure people of phobias and even treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Though still at the experiment stage, the technique works by using computer algorithms to track brain activity and then using the age-old method of targeting anxiety by using reward—basically, researchers show people images of things they were afraid of, and then try to reward them with money or sweets to calm their nerves.
Though the technique is successful in initial phases, what remains to be seen is whether it would work for long periods of time or whether the brain would revert to the old ways. With clinical depression on the rise—it will be the second-most disabling condition in the world by 2020, behind heart disease—such techniques can really transform prognosis and treatment. Further, with augmented reality and virtual reality techniques along with brain mapping being developed, a future is possible where doctors can really find what’s troubling you and treat it.