The science behind mind-reading has seen some advances in recent years, but it looks like we’ll soon be able to tell exactly what a person is thinking simply by monitoring brain activity.
Scientists attempting to locate the origin of seizures in an epilepsy study have found a way to connect images on a computer screen to spikes in neuron activity. First, a huge collection of pictures was created from studying the patient’s interests. The participants undergoing treatment had electrodes capable of following single neuron activity implanted into their brains, which were then connected to a computer. By monitoring brain activity while showing each patient the set of pictures, specific images were connected to unique neuron spikes.
For example, participants in the study were shown images of Venus Williams, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, and Josh Brolin, and each image resulted in a corresponding spike in neuron activity. When the participant thinks about any of the specific celebrities, only that neuron fires. In this way, the participants are able to manipulate which image appears on the screen simply by thinking about a particular person. When shown a blended overlay of two photographs, thinking about one of them causes the subject to appear sharper, while the other fades into the background.
In an interview with TechNewsDaily, UCLA computational neuroscientist Moran Cerf discusses the implications of this kind of brain-driven manipulation, stating “if the patient learns to control neurons perfectly, instead of having the image appear on the screen you can connect his brain to a cursor.” In other words, thinking about each image could result in a directional movement of a cursor on a screen, allowing for hands-free movement.
Other companies like Jedi Mind are also jumping on the brain-control bandwagon, and promisingly, most of them seem to be geared toward accessibility for people with motor and speech limitations. I just hope this doesn’t lead to a ‘let me find out what you’re thinking’ ray gun.