Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Eavesdropping on the Brain: Mind-Reading Devices Could be Possible in the Future

Could we read minds? Scientists are certainly one step closer after this latest study. Researchers have managed to collect the first solid evidence that the pattern of brain activity seen in someone performing a mathematical exercise under experimentally controlled conditions very similar to that observed when the person engages in quantitative thought in the course of daily life. The findings could lead researchers to a way to "eavesdrop" on the brain in real life. 

"This is exciting and a little scary," said Henry Greely who played no role in the study but is familiar with its contents, in a news release. "It demonstrates, first, that we can see when someone's dealing with numbers and, second, that we may conceivably someday be able to manipulate the brain to affect how someone deals with numbers."

In order to examine the thought processes of volunteers, the researchers monitored electrical activity in a region of the brain called the intraparietal sulcus. This part of the brain is known to be important in attention and hand motion. Previous studies have hinted that some nerve-cell clusters in this area are also involved in numerosity, the mathematical equivalent of literacy.

The scientists used a method called intracranial recording, which allowed them to monitor brain activity while people were immersed in real-life situations. The researchers tapped into the brains of three volunteers who were being evaluated for possible surgical treatment of their recurring, drug-resistant epileptic seizures; this involved removing a portion of the patient's skull and positioning packets of electrodes against the exposed brain surface. (more)