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Preparing to watch films for mind reading experiments

Is mind-reading on its way?

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have been busy conducting tests using MRI scanners to measure brain blood flow as volunteers watched movies. Apparently they watched Star Trek, Pink Panther 2 and Madagascar 2among others.

Their brains’ visual cortex responses to the on-screen movement was analysed and linked to a program examining those wave patterns. The computer determined what people watched by searching 18 million seconds of YouTube footage and finding similar images.

By blending together those found, matched images, they made a composite picture which closely resembled the original movie, albeit often in blurry images.

What this means, and they point out it’s still very early stages, is that if they can capture what people watch and relay that to a screen, then mind-reading itself is but a relatively short distance into the future. At present, it’s only possible to process films that people have actually seen.

Already, there is an immediate range of possibilities opened up.

  • Entertainment for self and others, as memories are shown and imagined scenarios are put into vision.
  • Even translating dreams could become easier with something to watch besides the spoken and often confused verbal accounts people give.
  • There is a medical hope too. It could be used to explore the minds of coma and stroke victims, which would assist in diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

Nick Collins, Science Correspondent of the Daily Telegraph explained the science in layman’s terms, and concluded with a hope: ‘we are decades away from a machine that could read thoughts and intentions’.

Let’s hope he’s right on that.

Or would such transparency be a good thing: no more secrets, no more private thoughts, no more fantasies….?


Photo: Belinda Hankins Miller