Modern scanners bring “mind reading” a step closer

LONDON, (Reuters) – Scientists have shown for the  first time that it may be possible to “read” a person’s mind  simply by looking at brain activity.

Using a modern scanner to measure blood flow, British  researchers said yesterday they were able to tell where  volunteers were located within a computer-generated virtual  reality environment.

“Surprisingly, just by looking at the brain data we could  predict exactly where they were,” Eleanor Maguire of the  Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College  London told reporters.

“In other words, we could ‘read’ their spatial memories.”
The discovery opens up the possibility of developing  machines to read a range of memories, although Maguire said the  risk of “intrusive” mind reading was still a long way off.

Instead, she believes the discovery, reported in the journal  Cell Biology, will help research into memory disorders such as  Alzheimer’s by shedding light on how the hippocampus region of  the brain records memories.

Maguire and colleagues used a technology known as functional  magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, which highlights brain  regions as they become active.

By scanning the brains of people as they played a virtual  reality computer game they were able to measure the activity of  certain neurons in the hippocampus, a region known to be  critical for navigation and memory.

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