Mind Reading a Step Closer

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Harnessed child from “Falling Skies” TV series

It’s been a science fiction standard since the 30’s- the ability to read people’s minds… and then manipulate them to make them do what you want. Most often an ability used by evil aliens bent on dominating Earth. Think the Midwich Cuckoos, the Daleks’ Robomen, and more recently the children “harnessed” in Falling Skies. But the ability to read a mind is now one step coser thanks to a Dutch computer program that can identify what someone is looking at using brain scans.

A team from Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands (pictured above)used image and shape recognition software and a specially designed algorithm to assess changes in a person’s brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology.

Those participating in the tests were shown a series of letters. The scientists were able to tell, from the brain scans exactly what letters they were looking at and when, using the software. During the tests thescientists showed participants letters and then ran the changes that occurred in the brain after each letter was shown through a specially created computer algorithm to identify them. They used fMRI scans to zoom in on changes in specific regions of the brain called voxels, in the occipital lobe; one of the four main lobes or regions of the cerebral cortex in the brain. These voxels are around 2 millimetres square and the occipital lobe is the part of the brain which reacts to visual stimuli and processes what the eyes can see through the retina.

This algorithm was able to convert the voxels, and their relevant changes, into image pixels, making it possible to reconstruct a picture of what the person was looking at, at the time of the scan. The model has been designed to compare letters, and so could be seen as rather limited. But it could be expanded for other imagery. This could include complex imagery such as a person’s face.

Ok, while this may not be exactly reading people’s thoughts, if it can be discovered how the brain reacts to non-physical/visual stimuli then “telepathic” computer algorithms could be developed- and that would be definitley in the realms of mind-reading. 

 

 

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