Scientists close in on knowing what you’ve seen by reading your mind

Now this could either be one of the scariest things to have happen or it could be a huge break through but University of California neuroscientist Jack Gallant at Berkeley believes he and postdoctoral researcher Thomas Naselaris have found a way for scientists to visually display what you are thinking.

To get to this point researchers have used a fMRI machine, which measures blood flow through the brain, to track neural activity in three people as they looked at pictures of everyday objects. Unlike previous studies the looked at regions of the brain that deals with general classifications, such as “buildings” or “small groups of people”.

Once they have calibrated a model test subjects would look at other pictures. After interpreting the resulting neural patterns the researchers’ program selected corresponding pictures from a database of 6 million images.

The researchers’ fMRI readings bundled the output of millions of neurons into single output blocks. “At the finer level, there is a ton of information. We just don’t have a way to tap into that without opening the skull and accessing it directly,” said Tong.

Gallant hopes to develop methods of interpreting other types of brain activity measurement, such as optical laser scans or EEG readings.

He mentioned medical communication devices as a possible application, and computer programs for which visual thinking makes sense — CAD-CAM or Photoshop, straight from the brain.

Source: Wired Science – Brain Scans Reveal What You’ve Seen

Regarding the image used: From Neuron. Images seen by test subjects are in the left column. In the middle the image reconstructions returned by the researchers’ older, structure-focused analysis. At right are the image reconstructions produced by the newer, category-including model.