Mind-Reading Machine Can Visualize Your Memories

Tuesday, 28 June 2016 - 1:20PM
Neuroscience
Tuesday, 28 June 2016 - 1:20PM
Mind-Reading Machine Can Visualize Your Memories
Scientists have discovered a way to reconstruct the images in a person's mind. In a new study, researchers concluded that it's possible to visualize a person's memory using only an fMRI machine and some machine learning software.

For the study, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers showed 23 participants hundreds of faces while hooked up to an fMRI machine. While they were looking at the faces, an AI program was learning to associate their perception of certain features with different brain activity. Then, once the machine has learned which activity corresponds to which feature, the participants are shown a picture of a brand-new face, and the machine reconstructs it.

Opening quote
"We can take someone's memory - which is typically something internal and private - and we can pull it out from their brains," lead author Brice Kuhl, a neuroscientist at the University of Oregon, told Vox. "Some people use different definitions of mind reading, but certainly, that's getting close."
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To be fair, the simulations from the computer were far from perfect recreations, as can be seen in the below side-by-side comparison. But still, when other subjects were shown the faces, they were able to accurately guess features like skin color and emotional expression at a higher-than-chance rate.

Mind Reading

The faces are a little horrifying, and needless to say, it will be quite a while before this sort of identification could hold up in a court of law. But still, there is the potential that this technology could serve to help police catch perpetrators of crimes from witness testimony, or even help recreate dreams.

Opening quote
"One fMRI paper did try to decode the content of dreams," Kuhl said. "It could decode - with whatever percent accuracy - that somebody was dreaming about a family member or something like that."
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This study takes us one step closer to mind-reading technology, but luckily, Kuhl says that with the technology they're using, reading someone's mind without their permission would probably be impossible.

Opening quote
"You need someone to play ball," he said. "You can't extract someone's memory if they are not remembering it, and people most of the time are in control of their memories."
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