Print 48 comment(s) - last by William Gaatje.. on Mar 20 at 5:04 AM

Activity visualizations during remembered episodes in the new study showed remarkable similarity.  (Source: Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging)
New research is quite exciting, but somewhat unsettling at the same time

What if you could tell what someone was thinking, or better yet, pluck their memories and examine them?  That concept has been fodder for countless science fiction works, and in essence is the goal of lie detection machines.  Unfortunately, to date, lie detection machines and other techniques are crude and error prone at analyzing memories or thoughts.  Additionally, the actual mechanism for memory in the brain is poorly understood.

The field of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) may change that.  Researchers have made a number of breakthroughs in using fMRI scans to capture brain activity and match it to pre-cataloged images.  

Now researchers have used fMRIs to gain a glimpse of recalled short term human memories and even begin to predict what memory corresponds to what event.  

The new study led by Eleanor Maguire of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, located in the UK, built on three pivotal previous studies.  The first was previous work, which was performed by Maguire's team, which showed that patterns of electrical activity in the hippocampus could be used to predict someone's position in a virtual world.  The second study was performed at Vanderbilt University and showed that activity in the visual cortex could be used to identify and provide analysis of short-term "working" memory.  The final study came from Japanese researchers, which showed that visual images of memories or sights could be reconstructed, including novel ones that the people had never seen before.

In the new work, Maguire showed 10 participants three short film clips of a woman performing some sort of action.  The clips were shown 15 times and then the participants were sent in for fMRI scanning.  During each scan, the participants were prompted to recall a particular clip in as much detail as possible.  After that, the participants were challenged to a "free recall", in which they decided a particular clip and though about it, afterwards entering what clip they had recalled.  Each participant did 30 such "free recall" trials.

The results were impressive.  All of the participants had the same regions of the hippocampi and hippocampus activated during the act of remembering.  The researchers also showed that during the set recalls, the brain activity (visualized as a "frequency heat map") stayed remarkably consistent.  And during the free recall, they showed that they could correctly predict which clip the participants had selected nearly every time.

The study was published in the journal 
Current Biology.

It is significant as it establishes what parts of the brain are used for episodic short term memory.  Combined with other studies on spatial short term memory, researchers are approaching being able to "read peoples' minds" for short term thoughts.

Long term memory remains a more elusive challenge, though.  It is thought that experiences cause changes in the frontal cortex, which amount to stored memories.  These memories can be recalled at a much later date, even years after the event.  It is unclear, though, exactly how this works.  Thus we can be thankful that we still have some time before thought crimes like those of
Minority Report or other mental snooping could fully be realized.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By Nfarce on 3/16/2010 12:18:18 PM , Rating: 3
The US military researched ESP and remote viewing very secretively during WWII. I believe the Russians also did it as well as Nazi Germany (Return To Castle Wolfenstein anyone?) and research continued for decades.

Minority Report references aside, there is nothing to prevent this technology from being a future tool for government tracking and investigation. It is already apparent the current US government leadership wants to collect DNA samples from every person arrested and booked no matter the crime.

Resistance is futile.

By porkpie on 3/16/2010 12:29:56 PM , Rating: 3
Did you actually use the words logic and ESP in the same sentence?

By MrBlastman on 3/16/2010 12:37:56 PM , Rating: 2
Tell us what you really think. Oh, wait, you don't have to--we can just hook you up to a scanner. :)

By Nfarce on 3/16/2010 3:37:48 PM , Rating: 2
Did you actually use the words logic and ESP in the same sentence?

Yep, I sure did - from a government perspective. Nobody ever said the government did logical things from everyone else's perspective. ;)

By Flunk on 3/16/2010 12:50:26 PM , Rating: 2
Your analogy is based on a fallacy. Research has proven that both ESP and remote viewing are comeplete garbage.

By Mitch101 on 3/16/2010 3:07:37 PM , Rating: 2
Are IQs dropping over time?

While I have no scientific data to support my claim. I am comfortable with my answer of YES IQs dropping over time!

By Noya on 3/16/2010 3:47:38 PM , Rating: 2
Damn the people who look down on eugenics!

By Mitch101 on 3/16/2010 1:02:59 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds like your afraid we will find out you know all along about the air generators on MARS?

By grenableu on 3/17/2010 7:13:16 AM , Rating: 2
Seek help.

"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Snapchat’s New Sunglasses are a Spectacle – No Pun Intended
September 24, 2016, 9:02 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki