Scientists in Japan (yes, I know, yet another mention of Japanese innovation–but is it my fault that the Japanese are doing so many cool things with science and technology as we sit by and debate who should be America’s Next Top Model?) are now able to reconstruct the images inside a person’s brain and display them on a monitor. Let me say that again–scientists can intercept images in your brain and see what you are dreaming about using a form of MRI technology. It’s currently limited to black and white, but the researchers say that as the accuracy of the technology improves over the next 10 years, they will be able to reproduce color images from your brain as well as, ultimately, reproductions of other sensory data and emotions.
The article appears in Neuron Magazine, Volume 60, Issue 5, 10 December 2008, Pages 915-929.
Here’s the abstract:
Perceptual experience consists of an enormous number of possible states. Previous fMRI studies have predicted a perceptual state by classifying brain activity into prespecified categories. Constraint-free visual image reconstruction is more challenging, as it is impractical to specify brain activity for all possible images. In this study, we reconstructed visual images by combining local image bases of multiple scales, whose contrasts were independently decoded from fMRI activity by automatically selecting relevant voxels and exploiting their correlated patterns. Binary-contrast, 10 × 10-patch images (2100 possible states) were accurately reconstructed without any image prior on a single trial or volume basis by measuring brain activity only for several hundred random images. Reconstruction was also used to identify the presented image among millions of candidates. The results suggest that our approach provides an effective means to read out complex perceptual states from brain activity while discovering information representation in multivoxel patterns.
The first thing I think about when I see this research is "Oh no, we’re getting closer to ThoughtCrime police". The next thing I think is: "wow, job interviews are going to get really interesting". The third thing I think is: "Will people in the future get paid to sell movies of their dreams?" Gives a whole new application for YouTube.
Every time I think something really amazing is happening, I find out something even more amazing is happening.