British Scientists have developed a computer that is capable of reading people’s mind according to reports. The system is able to decipher thought patterns and tell what people are thinking simply by scanning the brain.
The breakthrough is a step forward because it can delve into people’s memories and differentiate between different recollections. The breakthrough follows research last year by the same team who used the same technique to track a person’s movements around a computer-simulated room.
The study published online in Current Biology focussed on the hippocampus, an area at the centre of the brain that plays a crucial role in short term memory. A telepathy machine raises the prospect of a lie detector tests and could even lead to manipulations of memories such as in the film the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
In their latest experiment the researchers showed 10 volunteers three seven second films featuring different women carrying out an everyday task in a typical urban street such as posting a letter or drinking coffee from a paper cup.
The volunteers were asked to memorise what they saw and then recall each one in turn whilst inside an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner which records brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow within the brain.
The computer algorithm then studied the electrical patterns and could tell which film the volunteer was recalling with an accuracy of about 50 per cent – which was well above chance.
Prof Eleanor Maguire, of University College London, said: “In our previous experiment we were looking at basic memories, at someone’s location in an environment. “What is more interesting is to look at ‘episodic’ memories – the complex, everyday memories that include much more information on where we are, what we are doing and how we feel.
“We’ve been able to look at brain activity for a specific episodic memory — to look at actual memory traces. We found our memories are definitely represented in the hippocampus. “Now that we’ve seen where they are, we have an opportunity to understand how memories are stored and how they may change through time.”
The researchers used the same scanning technique in their earlier study to work out the locations of four men as they navigated their way around a virtual reality room.
The pattern of brain activity was different for each of the four points they visited – allowing the team to work out where the men were.