Friday, September 23, 2011

Scan reconstructs images from your brain

We might be one step closer to a mind reading device, as scientists have found a way to reconstruct images from a video that people have seen, by scanning their brain. Scientists from UC Berkeley were able to see what others have seen by putting people in an MRI scanner and let them watch YouTube videos for several hours. The data from the MRI scanner was used to reveal what the participants were looking at. Scary enough, the scientists succeeded, partly. They derived shapes, colours and movement from the participants' brain, which were then matched by a computer model that scant through video details from YouTube, of a total of 18 million seconds. Because we visualize everything we see within our brain, it is possible to match brain activity with an image we see with our eyes. But actually harnessing this data to reconstruct a visual image of what people have seen is extraordinary, and could possibly be used to reconstruct other images in our brains, such as dreams.

Measuring brain activity with an MRI scanner is nothing new, but the software behind the brain image visualizer is making the difference here. From the electrical activity in various parts of the brain, the computer is able to construct an image. The outcome is rather blurry, but the software is nonetheless able to link the vague image to a scene from a video clip. In the future, scientists hope they will be able to construct a better picture of the images we have in our heads, by looking at more parts of the brain that are involved with visualizing the input we receive from our eyes.

There is a lot more going on in our brain than what the scientists from UC Berkeley have measured. We use more brain areas when watching videos, that help us with interpreting what we see, and recognition of images. Of course, these things are much harder for a computer to unravel. However, the current possibilities for reconstructing brain images could very well aid us in visualizing dreams in the future. Perhaps it could also be used for people suffering from delusions, for example in schizophrenia.

At UC Berkeley, they rather call it a brain decoding device than a mind reading device. I however would still like to call it a mind reading device.

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