[Dr. Adrian Owen was] studying a 29-year-old man brain damaged in a car crash in 2003.
The man was in a coma for two years before slipping into a persistent vegetative state. He was seemingly awake, occasionally blinked, but showed no other sign of being aware of the outside world.
They used a hi-tech functional magnetic resonance scanner (fMRI) to measure brain response while the patient was asked questions.
Because the actual brain signals associated with Yes and No are complicated and too similar to distinguish, they came up with a usable code.
The team asked the patient to think of playing tennis for Yes and moving around his home for No.
While the movement in tennis sparks spatial areas at the top of the brain, the navigational task of moving around your home sparks the motion areas at the base of the brain.
The patient was then asked six simple biographical questions including the name of his father and whether he had any sisters. In each case, his thoughts were picked up by the scans within five minutes. In each case he was 100 per cent accurate.
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.