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electrodes placed on the brain  (Source: downstate.edu)
New method could help those incapable of speech

At some point in the near future, mind-reading could be a power possessed not only by fictional characters like Professor Charles Xavier (Professor X), but also real-life researchers who are searching for ways to help individuals who have lost their ability to speak.

Robert Knight, of the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California - Berkeley, and Brian Pasley, a scientist in Knight's lab at UC Berkeley, have successfully translated brain activity into words.

The team was able to do this by recruiting the cooperation of 15 patients, who were already in the hospital for intractable epilepsy treatment. This particular operation requires removal of the top of the patient's skull, where a net of electrodes are then placed along the surface of the brain. The electrodes identify the origin areas of the patient's fit, and that particular tissue is eliminated.

The 15 patients were each played different words aloud for five or 10 minutes. While the words were played, the brain activity of each patient was recorded via the electrode nets. As it turns out, the brain managed to break down sounds into different acoustic frequencies, where the range of speech is 1-8,000 Hertz.

Later, new words would be played to the patients in order to see if familiar words could be identified and repeated. According to the researchers, they received accurate results from recordings in the superior temporal gyrus, which is part of the brain on one side above the ear. While some words could be identified, it was difficult to recognize others, showing that the area of mind reading definitely needs more research.

"This is exciting in terms of the basic science of how the brain decodes what we hear," said Knight. "Potentially, the technique could be used to develop an implantable prosthetic device to aid speaking, and for some patients that would be wonderful. The next step is to test whether we can decode a word when a person imagines it. That might sound spooky, but this could really help patients. Perhaps in 10 years it will be as common as grandmother getting a new hip."

One issue that was brought up in regards to this form of mind reading is the possibility of it being used to interrogate criminals. However, Knight said this would be near impossible since the skull needs to be removed and cooperation of the patient is needed in order for it to work.

Other potential issues that researchers may run into with mind reading is distinguishing between private thoughts and what the person really wants to say.

This isn't UC Berkeley's first crack at the concept of mind-reading. Last September, Jack Gallant and Shinji Nishimoto from UC Berkeley used fMRI and computational models to decipher and reconstruct movies from the minds of patients. They were able to successfully rebuild the human visual experience by piecing together videos from the mind.

Sources: PLoS Biology, The Guardian



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Insanity
By chmilz on 2/1/2012 2:06:20 PM , Rating: 2
Dunno about the rest of humankind, but my mind is always racing, constantly talking, pondering, imagining. Unless the device could be designed to only pick up on what someone wants to externalize, it would be constant and relentless, and would likely drive you mad.




RE: Insanity
By JediJeb on 2/1/2012 2:43:38 PM , Rating: 2
If it could not distinguish between a thought and an intended spoken word as you say then there better be a good filter placed on any prosthetic device made from this technology or there is going to be many lawsuits for liable and other such problems cause by someone knowing what you are thinking instead of what you would have said.


RE: Insanity
By TSS on 2/1/2012 3:30:45 PM , Rating: 2
I doubt this machine will have any real impact. It cannot distinguish between spoken and thought words, but that says nothing of which word you choose to think.

If i knew what i say to myself in my head gets recorded, ill simply say different things to myself in my head.

When they start to be able to transmit feelings and complete thoughts, then we can talk privacy. When you can hear the words i'm thinking, with the feeling that i don't trust you and this isn't the truth, that's when it's dangerous.

One thing i've learned as somebody with a communication disorder it's that it doesn't matter what you say when other people think you are lieing. Even if you're trying to tell the honest truth.


RE: Insanity
By FastEddieLB on 2/2/2012 5:19:50 AM , Rating: 3
You sound like an INTP. We're a rare bunch, making up 3% of people.

You could also be an INTJ, an even rarer bunch making up only 2%


RE: Insanity
By SilthDraeth on 2/7/2012 11:44:35 PM , Rating: 2
Hey thanks for the INTP call out. It seems I fit into that category, or INTJ, or I am guessing a bit of both, I sort of fall into the descriptions of them both.

I hadn't in the past attempted to look up personality types. But this news story and the reader you responded too piqued my curiosity based on the similarity of how he described himself.


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