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U.S. Developing Mind Reading Technology

The use of scan­ners to read brain sig­nals allowed the researchers to cor rectly deter mine which of two images their guinea pigs were look ing at 80 per cent of the time. The test is one in a series in which sci en tists have read minds using Mag netic Res o nance Imag ing (MRI) scan ners, which are nor mally used in hos pi tals to detect the flow of blood around the brain using a radio mag netic field and radio waves.

Dr Stephanie Har ri son, who led the study at Van der bilt Uni ver sity in Nashville, asked six vol un teers to look at dif fer ent images on a screen – one of a cir cle with almost hor i zon tal lines across it and one of a cir cle with almost ver ti cal lines across it.

As they were shown the images, mon i tor ing showed that dif fer ent sides of their brains had lit up.

They were then asked to remem ber one par tic u lar cir cle and, from look ing at the pat tern of brain activ ity, the researchers were able to tell with con sid er able accu racy which one they were think­ing of.

Writ ing in the jour nal Nature, Dr Har ri son said: “Decod ing accu­racy greatly exceeded chance-level per for mance of 50 per cent and proved highly reli able in the six par tic i pants.”

While the study does not unlock the secrets of mind-reading or thought pre dic tion, it does allow sci en tists to deter mine which parts of the brain are involved in short-term visual mem ory.

Pre vi ously, sci en tists in Cal i for nia asked vol un teers to look at 1,750 images then used MRI scans to cor rectly judge, in nine out of ten cases, which one they were think ing of.

Lead researcher Dr Jack Gal lant warned after the results were pub lished last year: “It is pos si ble decod ing brain activ ity could have seri ous eth i cal and pri vacy impli ca tions. We believe that no one should be sub jected to any form of brain-reading invol un tar­ily, covertly, or with out informed con sent.”