Can brain scanners read your mind?

Scientists have developed a computerised mind-reading technique which lets them accurately predict the images that people are looking at by using scanners to study brain activity.

The breakthrough by American scientists took MRI scanning equipment normally used in hospital diagnosis to observe patterns of brain activity when a subject examined a range of black and white photographs. Then a computer was able to correctly predict in nine out of 10 cases which image people were focused on. Guesswork would have been accurate only eight times in every 1,000 attempts.

The study raises the possibility in the future of the technology being harnessed to visualise scenes from a person’s dreams or memory.

Writing in the journal Nature, the scientists, led by Dr Jack Gallant from the University of California at Berkeley, said: "Our results suggest that it may soon be possible to reconstruct a picture of a person’s visual experience from measurements of brain activity alone. Imagine a general brain-reading device that could reconstruct a picture of a person’s visual experience at any moment in time."

Here is the full story.  It’s a big step from paragraph two to paragraph four, and paragraph one reads to me like a misrepresentation.  Predicting a viewed image from a set is very different from figuring out the image from scratch.  But still this is impressive.

Addendum: Elsewhere from the world of science, here is a new article on finger ratios and the length of ring fingers and what it all means.


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