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

RE: Please stop the Minority Report analogy
By SlyNine on 3/17/2010 3:58:25 AM , Rating: 2
Basically, Your premises seem to be based on speculation. With little more then anecdotal evidence to back up your premises.

What he is assuming, and saying is. Your premises, even though they might lead to a valid conclusion, are invalid because they are based on speculation.

Now the question is, are your premises based on speculation, or have you seen the movie, read the script, SOMETHING that gives you the ability to subjectively/objectively judge the content of this film?

RE: Please stop the Minority Report analogy
By Reclaimer77 on 3/17/10, Rating: -1
By SlyNine on 3/19/2010 3:19:26 AM , Rating: 1
I never questioned your opinion, only the logic/reasoning that lead you to it. Even then I didn't call it wrong, I was just letting you know why people are taking issues with it.

By SlyNine on 3/19/2010 3:28:13 AM , Rating: 1
So if I go download and watch Minority Report right now, and come back and post the same thing, your point would be.. what exactly ? Because I'll do it if it will make you happy.

The point would be you have ample information to give your reasoning process the ability to correctly assess this film.

For the record, I didn't say you didn't. I simply said it seems like you don't and you have giving us a reason to question your conclusion. Which yes is purely subjective and no more then an opinion.

But lets say a person that has never drove a sports car said a Dodge Viper was one hell of a sports car. Even though that's his opinion, It is fair to ask why he considers it "one hell of a sports car". If he replies, because I read the reviews of these things all the time and understand the objective dynamics of the cars. Then that is acceptable.

If he does what you did... Not many would consider his premises valid so we would question his conclusion, even though its just an opinion.

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

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