Pseudoscience & Quackery

An open invitation to Dr. Vijay Bhatkar on the Midbrain Activation scam

Dr. Vijay Bhatkar,

I appreciate your work in the Param projects, India’s earliest computing accomplishments; and your many projects since. Param projects had done us proud. I have interests in high-performance computing myself. However, we at Nirmukta are disappointed at these claims of your endorsement of this scam that is “Midbrain Activation” (MA hence forth), on behalf of FRAMBE.

MA trainers undergo 3-days of “training”, less training than modern medical facilities perhaps train their janitors and other unskilled staff. They seem to have an extremely low understanding of science, its epistemology, its critical methods and their importance.

The paranormal claims that these MA trainers make are most absurd. A good 12th class student, majoring in Science, knows enough Physics and Biology, to understand that the claims are patently absurd. They are nothing more than parlor tricks; great at parties and stage shows; but fraud, when sold as truth or as products. As you may know, most Indians however, are not yet scientifically minded (painfully, sometimes experts who should know better included), and fall prey for statements of folk understanding of science such as Right Brain and Left Brain differences, the vulnerabilities that these MA trainers craftily employ to tug at the strings of trust. We feel that it is utterly unethical for anyone to prey with pseudoscience, upon the natural desire of all Indian parents, to see their children reach the highest intellectual heights they can.

The MA people have not demonstrated a commitment to truth. To give an example of their scruples, just a few days ago, it was demonstrated in this very forum, that the FRAMBE web site was a blatant rip off, of a major US neuroscience lab, IMHRO, within University of California, with unambiguous claims, that its researchers work for FRAMBE, and that its endorsements are FRAMBE’s own. After being outed, FRAMBE has hastily removed the fraudulent content. As it stands, the web site is still in copyright violation of the IMHRO web site.

Currently, using your endorsement, they are desperately trying to set you up as an infallible deity of sorts, behind whose national awards they think they can find a safe refuge from critique. But we both know that science does not work in this way. Rejection of infallibility of persons is at the very crux of Enlightenment, the seed of science. Arguments and evidence matter; persons and their eminence do not… when it comes to the pursuit of truth. I regard Newton as the greatest mind in history. Yet, I recognize the pseudoscience of his lifelong pursuit of bible codes, the pursuit of which, he is said to have spent more time on, than actual science. In his wake, we recognize and celebrate his accomplishments that have forever changed our view of the Universe, but cast aside his irrational and religious thought. No one may defend the pseudoscience of the bible codes and hide behind Newton. The arguments and evidence will have to carry their own weight.

I would like to think that these MA scammers have only temporarily hoodwinked you, to win your trust, by playing on your personal views of spirituality and Indian tradition. It is perhaps because you have little experience in dealing with pseudoscience scams, that you were not able to critically evaluate their demonstration. Perhaps it is because you have no formal training in Biology, Neuroscience or Cognitive Psychology… that you felt overwhelmed by the pseudoscience jargon that the MA trainers used. In any case, I urge you to consult with your scientific peers in academia, from any reputed university, in these relevant fields, to understand the complete lack of feasibility of these claims and the high standards of truth required to prove such claims. As a decorated public intellectual, you have a high standard of responsibility before endorsing anything.

However, if you feel that you are entirely convinced of these claims and feel comfortable in throwing your weight behind these claims, to defend MA with scientific arguments, I would like to invite you to an open debate on Nirmukta with me, formally on behalf of Nirmukta. As a note ahead, I am just as academically trained as you are, albeit in the disciplines of actual relevance here. I passionately defend the methods of science. You can find my critique of Dr. B.M. Hegde, who has promoted quantum mysticism (well beyond his actual expertise, which is in Cardiology) in a national newspaper, here.

Nirmukta sent my article to a very reputed quantum physicist from IIT to ensure that I did not misrepresent quantum mechanics, as Dr. Hegde did. Our goal is that science is properly represented. We do not push our personal views on science, but articulate those of the scientific consensus. A separate expert opinion would not be necessary in this case. I am quite adequately qualified academically to speak for science in these matters. So let us talk, scientist to scientist, in the language of science.

About the author



    • This is a great paper. Just in time too.
      This is what real science is. I think this paper is an excellent contrast of actual science, in comparison to the pseudoscience of midbrain activation.

      They are using a camera in the head gear to transcode simple images (or textures for the blind) to sound, for a classification task, using a computer algorithm, and having the mind associate the two. They are exploiting overlaps in visual and auditory circuits to “simulate” a visual experience. The device they built is basically a personal radar.

      Of course, in midbrain fantasy land, we would not need all these additional sensors, headphones and computer technology like this, We would be able to just flick any card by the ear and know which one it is. No optical sensor of any kind required. We would just touch and know the color. Why bother with simple shapes or have trouble decoding sound from a single, repeated alphabet, when we can read full text at normal speed?… somehow no touch or sound needed either, even though text is visually much more complex than a card or color. All in two days, mind you. But this is the real world.

      From your link: “if you are talking on the phone with someone you know very well, and they are crying, you will not just hear the sound but will visualize their face in tears”

      Yes, and just to be clear, in case there is any confusion, its visualizing…i.e. imagining via imputation, not actual seeing. The human brain fills in a lot of gaps with imputed data. Imputed data is NOT actual data. The person may or may not have tears on their cheeks at that time, but it is imputed to be so.

      When I was a kid we used to try and identify our optical blind spot with a 25 paisa coin. Same concept.

      A more interactive demo is here

      The brain fills in the blind spot with the surrounding visual data. So I am not actually seeing there, but it only feels like I am.

      Likewise with speech. It is easier to understand someone while talking to them directly, watching their lips move and their expressions change. Deaf people get a lot of mileage from lip reading. Brain is of course multi-modal and we should absolutely use science to take advantage of it. But pseudoscience is a different matter.

  • Dear Parents & Business owner of MBA

    Here people are discussing about whether Midbrain activation is real or false but please remember that if midbrain is really activated then it will disturb the chemical balance of your children’s brain and they may become mental illness patient in future for lifetime because each brain & its structure is slightly different.
    Midbrain activation trainer are not a doctor & they doesn’t know the medical science behind it.
    Any good psychiatrist doctor never suggest you to go for such a training.
    Mental illness like schizophrenia develop slowly mostly between age 17 years to 32 years.

    Please read following article carefully !

    (The midbrain, also known as the mesencephalon, activates in response to specific stimuli. It responds both to signals from within the body and to external events. Research on midbrain activation looks at which areas of the brain respond to given stimuli and how these play a role in learning and other activities that require more complex brain activity. People with a particular interest in this subject can apply to participate in brain studies, where researchers scan the brains of their subjects while they are exposed to various stimuli.
    This section of the brain is part of the brainstem, located between this structure and the higher level cortexes responsible for critical thinking, language, and other complex activities. Signals from the higher and lower brain pass through the midbrain, activating it as they move through so the neurons can determine where to route the information. Midbrain activation can also directly control some processes, like eye movements and the physiological processes involved in arousal.
    When stimuli occur inside the body, a cascade of neurotransmitters sends the signal through the brainstem to the midbrain, where it decides what to do with the information. It can pass it on to another area of the brain or take action to directly regulate a process like internal temperature control. The midbrain also activates in response to external stimuli like sights and sounds, processing the information and bundling it to an appropriate location elsewhere in the brain.
    This structure plays a role in associative learning, and research suggests that subjects respond more strongly to certain kinds of stimuli than to others, exhibiting selective midbrain activation. This may reflect the history of the human race, which would have needed to be especially attuned to stimuli that might be dangerous. The ability to process and respond quickly to information like an approaching predator would have allowed early humans to survive, passing on their genes to the next generation.
    Some mental illnesses, particularly schizophrenia, appear to interfere with midbrain activation. This can play a role in the development of hallucinations, delusions, and other phenomena experienced by people with mental illness. The provision of medications to such patients can help normalize their neurotransmitters to suppress such experiences by controlling the pathways involved in midbrain activation and other neurological processes. Variable success on medications among psychiatric patients occurs because each brain is slightly different, and the medications may affect patients in different ways as a result.)

    Above Information from :


  • I am the Ravi who wrote the above article, not the Ravi who wrote the above post.

    Yes, people who have no neuroscience training should have no business in running any “brain” programs. None of the programs that claim to enhance the brain have any scientific basis behind them, not just this scam.

    But, from the account of the activities that these trainers claim to effect the midbrain, I am not stating that these activities have neurological side-effects on the midbrain. I am saying that these activities have no neurological effect whatsoever on the midbrain – good or bad. These courses are quite simply… fraudulent, very expensive day-care programs that create the environment for the child to learn the peeking trick, in order to appease the expectations from the trainer, peers and parents.

    The only side effects would be:
    – A waste of 2 days.
    – Relocation of parents’ money into trainer’s pocket on basis of deceitful claims.
    – Psychological guilt and its consequences in the child from being forced to cheat his parents, especially in front of guests.

    The other Ravi’s views are his own and he is entitled to them.

Leave a Comment