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Scientists have learned to "read" human thoughts: how they did it

Yulia PoteriankoNews
The algorithm "reads the minds" of subjects based on MRI data

Remote mind reading is considered to be absolutely fantastic and unattainable. However, it seems that scientists have come close to achieving this.

According to Live Scene, a recent study has managed to establish quite precisely what kind of information passed through the brains of its participants. The description of the experiment was published at the end of September, and it has not yet been peer-reviewed, but it has already aroused considerable scientific interest.

To "read minds," the researchers used the method of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). It does not involve implanting electrodes into the subject's brain, as was done in earlier studies. A person is simply placed in a CT scanner and the flow of oxygenated blood through the brain is monitored. Since active brain cells require more energy and oxygen, this allows for an indirect measurement of organ activity.

It is important to note that brain activity is not recorded directly - the electrical signals emitted by its cells move much faster than the blood flow. But even such imperfect indirect evidence allows us to decode the semantic meaning of people's thoughts. Of course, this is not a literal "translation" of their thoughts, but the results can be used to determine in some detail what the subject was thinking.

One woman and two men aged 20 to 30 took part in the tests. Each participant listened to a total of 16 hours of different podcasts and radio programs in several sessions in the scanner. The team then uploaded these scans to a computer, where a decoder algorithm compared the patterns in the audio to those in the recorded brain activity.

This algorithm can create stories based on the data, and the scientists claim that the conclusions it draws from it match the original story of the podcast or radio program "fairly well." In other words, the decoder could deduce what story each participant heard based on the person's brain activity.

There were some mistakes. For example, the algorithm got confused about pronouns or sometimes swapped the first person with the third person. Nevertheless, its conclusions were quite accurate.

In additional tests, the algorithm could explain the plot of a silent movie that participants watched while lying in the CT scanner quite accurately. It could even retell the story that the participants were imagining in their heads. In the long term, the research team aims to develop this technology so that it can be used in brain-computer interfaces designed for people who cannot speak or type.

As OBOZREVATEL previously reported, scientists have found 1000 genes that are responsible for the differences in brain function between men and women.

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