Brain Scanner Can Tell What You’re Looking At

By | March 7, 2008
brainpatterns.jpg

Tell me what you see.

On second thought, don’t: A computer will soon be able to do it, simply by analyzing the activity of your brain.

That’s the promise of a decoding system unveiled this week in Nature by neuroscientists from the University of California at Berkeley.

The scientists used a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine — a real-time brain scanner — to record the mental activity of a person looking at thousands of random pictures: people, animals, landscapes, objects, the stuff of everyday visual life. With those recordings the researchers built a computational model for predicting the mental patterns elicited by looking at any other photograph. When tested with neurological readouts generated by a different set of pictures, the decoder passed with flying colors, identifying the images seen with unprecedented accuracy.

“No one that I know would ever have guessed our decoder would do this well,” study co-author Jack Gallant said.

As the decoder is refined, it could be used to explore the phenomenon of visual attention — concentration on one part of a complicated scene — and then to illuminate the dimly understood intricacies of the mind’s eyes. – wired

Can the brain scanner tell that I’m looking at the output of the brain scanner? 😉

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