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Mind-reading machines may sound like they belong firmly in the realms of science fiction, but they may be closer to reality than you think. Researchers have developed a technique that can produce a digital image of what a person is picturing in their mind, simply by reading the electrical activity of their brain.
As part of a new study, accepted for publication in the journal eNeuro, a team from the University of Toronto Scarborough (UT) used a non-invasive test known as an electroencephalogram (EEG)—which is usually used in the diagnosis of brain tumors, epilepsy and other conditions—to record this electrical activity in participants who were presented with visual stimuli on a computer screen.
The researchers hooked up the volunteers—thirteen healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 27—to the EEG via electrodes placed on their heads. They then showed the participants the faces of 140 individuals, one-by-one, on the computer screen, while recording their brain activity.
Finally, on a computer installed with special machine-learning algorithms, the team re-created images of the faces that the participants were looking at using the data recorded by the EEG. Essentially, the algorithm searched for brain signals related to the mental image that the volunteers were holding in their mind and reproduced it as a digital image. (Machine learning refers to computer systems that can adapt their programming according to the data that is fed to them, without being explicitly reprogrammed).
The work draws on the brain’s natural ability to create what is known as a mental percept,…
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