Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University performed MRI scans of ten physicists to understand how their brains respond to abstract physical concepts such as fermion, gravity, or dark matter.

The authors of the new work decided to investigate how the brain of different people reacts to abstract concepts and whether we think about the same thing when we imagine a fermion, gravity or dark matter. To understand this, psychologists performed an MRI scan of the brains of ten colleagues from the physics department.

During the procedure, volunteers were asked to imagine the basic properties of one of 45 abstract physical concepts related to matter and energy. The list includes both concepts from classical physics – such as speed, electric field or precession, and postclassical concepts – boson, antiparticle, quasar and others.

As a result, the authors have determined what determines the reaction of the brain to this or that concept. This is primarily due to its measurability or immeasurability, as well as to whether the concept can be mathematically formulated and whether there have been any systematic changes in it, typical, for example, of the concepts of the wave function, light and radio waves.

The authors collected all these factors and tried to predict in advance what the brain activity of another person will be. The prediction accuracy was 69–70%.

This means that people who spoke different languages ​​were brought up in different cultures and studied at different universities, similarly perceived abstract concepts.