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Now or Then?

Understanding more about how we anticipate what's coming our way

24 July 2021

Now or Then?

The ability to anticipate what might happen in the future is an important life skill that allows us to plan and prepare for what’s to come, but we understand very little about how our brains actually do it. By repeatedly showing volunteers the same short clip from the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel while in an fMRI brain scanner, researchers were able to see which areas of the brain became active as the participants began to anticipate what was coming next. Intriguingly, areas of the brain linked to vision seemed to be involved in anticipating events in the next few seconds, while the middle parts of the brain anticipated 5 to 8 seconds in the future and the front of the brain was anticipating up to 15 seconds ahead. None of us can see the future, but now we know a bit more about how we anticipate what lies ahead.

Written by Kat Arney

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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