Scientists Get Step Closer to Decoding Our Thoughts

Computers track brain activity as words are heard
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 1, 2012 4:44 AM CST
Volunteers had large numbers of electrodes implanted in their brains as they listened to words spoken.   (PloS Biology)

(Newser) – Scientists have taken a big step toward being able to decode our thoughts. Researchers working with brain surgery patients taught computers to decipher the brain activity that takes place when words are heard. The brain, they found, breaks sounds down into their consistent acoustic frequencies. Using that computer model, they were then able to correctly guess which word volunteers had chosen from a list and were thinking of, the BBC reports.

"This is exciting in terms of the basic science of how the brain decodes what we hear," the lead researcher says. Actual mind-reading machines are still in the realm of science fiction, the researchers say, but the findings could someday be used to develop devices to help people who have lost the ability to speak. "We can rest assured that our skulls will remain an impenetrable barrier for any would-be technological mind hacker for any foreseeable future," a neuroscientist tells the Guardian. (Read more brain waves stories.)

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