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Lack Self-Confidence? Japan Scientist Shows the Way to Reverse it

Japan neuro-scientist has discovered a way to implicitly amplify confidence in the brain by combining the use of artificial intelligence and brain imaging technology, according to a study, published in the journal Nature Communications, which can bring about drastic changes in treatment of clinical, medical and social problems.

Self-confidence is an essential quality to succeed in the world, such as in business environments, politics or many other aspects of our everyday life and lack of self-confidence leads to mental illnesses such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease, where the condition is often further complicated by patients thinking negatively of their own capacities.

However, Dr. Mitsuo Kawato, Director of the Computational Neuroscience Laboratories at ATR, Kyoto, and one of the authors on the study, has developed a method to read and then amplify a high confidence state using a new technique called ‘Decoded Neurofeedback’.

This technique used brain scanning to monitor and detect the occurrence of specific complex patterns of activity corresponding to high confidence states, while participants performed a simple perceptual task.

In the training sessions, whenever the pattern of high confidence was detected, participants received a small monetary reward. This experiment allowed researchers to directly boost one’s own confidence unconsciously, which implies that the participants were unaware that such manipulation took place. Importantly, the effect could be reversed, as confidence could also be decreased.

Dr. Kawato explained the process: “How is confidence represented in the brain? Although this is a very complex question, we used approaches drawn from artificial intelligence (AI) to find specific patterns in the brain that could reliably tell us when a participant was in a high or low confidence state. The core challenge was then to use this information in real-time, to make the occurrence of a confident state more likely to happen in the future”.

The sample size was relatively small (17 people), but is in line with basic science investigations of similar kinds. The team is currently working on the development of potential new clinical treatment for patients with various psychiatric conditions.

Lead-author Dr. Aurelio Cortese, of the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, Kyoto, said, “Surprisingly, by continuously pairing the occurrence of the highly confident state with a reward – a small amount of money – in real-time, we were able to do just that: when participants had to rate their confidence in the perceptual task at the end of the training, their were consistently more confident”.

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