With all the technological advancements that have taken place, all our personal information is exposed to others, whether we like it or not. If there is one thing that we can call our own, it is our mind. We are actually on the verge of losing it too. We are not going harebrained but we are being subjected to mind reading by our own creations – the computers.
Researchers are turning computers into mind readers. They have created a computer that can look at the brain waves or scans and figure out what humans are thinking.
The brain is not exactly unexplored territory. Philosophers have long before pondered on the nature of thought that pulses through our gray matter and even used several serums, polygraphs, lobotomies and hypnotism to find out what the thoughts are.
However, the past few years have seen an extraordinary and unprecedented promise in the field of neurosciences, with scientists scanning the brain to find patterns of emotion and thought, which are the precursors for behavior and learning.
Brain waves are electrical brain activity patterns. This means, that brain cells communicate with each other by using electricity and neurotransmitters, which are chemicals. These brain waves can be altered by thoughts of different planned actions, such as moving a hand without actually moving the hand.
Researchers hope this study will provide a better understanding of how the brain stores information and where, which will in turn help with providing better treatment for people with learning disabilities, language disorders and other neurological diseases.
Tom Mitchell, the lead researcher from the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh says, “The question we are trying to get at is one people have been thinking about for centuries, which is: How does the brain organize knowledge? It is only in the last 10 or 15 years that we have this way that we can study this question.”
They used an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging,) which is a high-resolution brain scan that sees the actual brain activity. The computer was calibrated by making nine student volunteers think of 50 different words, by imaging the brain activity. The volunteers were told that when a word is shown to them, they will have to think of its properties. Then they showed the volunteers the words and imaged as each of the nine volunteers thought about the 58 words. This is done to create an average image of one word.
Mitchell said, “We have the program calculate the mean brain activity over all of the words that somebody has looked at. That gives us the average when somebody thinks about a word, and then we subtract that average out from all those images.”
After the training on all the 58 words was completed, the computer was asked to decide which brain image belonged to which word and the computer passed the test in flying colors by identifying the word that belonged to the image.
There are a lot of areas where these mind reading computers can be used. Imagine the plight of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS,) who are alive and alert but unable to speak or move. This offers new hope to these people, where they may have a chance of communicating with the help of computers that read their minds.
Researchers are very excited at this development and they say the next step is to study the brain activity for phrases.
As researchers probe deeper into the three pound universe in our head, we may very soon be able to implant new memories in the head and write over all the traumas in the fond hope of calming a fractured psyche. How about implanting a chip that makes us proficient in a foreign language or even gives us in-depth knowledge about a subject?