Sunday, August 07, 2005

Predicting Stimuli from fMRI Data

Though the headline and subhead they use are unfortunately over-dramatic, this from the BBC:
'Thoughts read' via brain scans
The researchers monitored activity in the brain. Scientists say they have been able to monitor people's thoughts via scans of their brains.

Teams at University College London and University of California in LA could tell what images people were looking at or what sounds they were listening to.

The US team say their study proves brain scans do relate to brain cell electrical activity.

The UK team say such research might help paralysed people communicate, using a "thought-reading" computer.

In their Current Biology study, funded by the Wellcome Trust, people were shown two different images at the same time - a red stripy pattern in front of the right eye and a blue stripy pattern in front of the left.

The volunteers wore special goggles which meant each eye saw only what was put in front of it.

In that situation, the brain then switches awareness between both images, sometimes seeing one image and sometimes the other.

While people's attention switched between the two images, the researchers used fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) brain scanning to monitor activity in the visual cortex.

It was found that focusing on the red or the blue patterns led to specific, and noticeably different, patterns of brain activity.

The fMRI scans could reliably be used to predict which of the images the volunteer was looking at, the researchers found.

[snip]

The US study, published in Science, took the same theory and applied it to a more everyday example.

They used electrodes placed inside the skull to monitor the responses of brain cells in the auditory cortex of two surgical patients as they watched a clip of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".

They used this data to accurately predict the fMRI signals from the brains of another 11 healthy patients who watched the clip while lying in a scanner.
[ ... Read the full article ... ]
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Anthony H. Risser | | |

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