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The Energy Budget of Thinking


Posted: Jul 14 2009 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Energy, Spatial Thinking, Research Idea

At the spatial cognition workshop I mentioned in the previous post, we were asked to think big picture thoughts about what we most wanted to find out about spatial cognition. My big wish is to be able to find out the energy costs, literally the calorie expenditure, of various thought processes.

This notion is not totally far fetched. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the brain imaging technology that shows specific regions of the brain "lit up" when they are being used, is a measure of blood flow. Blood flows in order to bring oxygen. Oxygen comes in order to support respiration. And respiration occurs in order to generate energy. So at least conceptually, the increase in blood flow that occurs when a brain region is active could be a proxy for energy demand. More

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