Peeping into other's brain

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Washington, Mar 6 (UNI) Always wanted to know what impression your boss has about you or if the hot chick next door dreams about you? The ability to read someone's mind and visualise what is he looking at, thinking of or dreaming about is a possibility now by analysing his brain activity with a medical scanner.

According to US researcher Jack Gallant, a device that can read the living brain and tap into the state of another person's conscious experience of vision can be invented in the future.

The study published in journal Nature claims a major advance in working out how people saw by deducing the relationship between natural images and the patterns of brain activity in the visual areas at the back of the brain.

The researchers used a type of real-time imaging called functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to predict which photograph a volunteer was looking at.

Different areas in the brain represent different features of what we look at. Low-level areas represent features such as edges, angles, and curvature, and high-level areas represent very complex patterns such as faces.

Previous studies attempting to interpret visual experiences have only been able to decode much simpler information and required that the computer be trained on the exact same set of objects that it would later be tested on.

This approach to decoding brain signals could be used to track mental processes such as attention, the way that we can focus our zone of interest, and perhaps even provide access to the visual content of dreams and mental imagery.

''Our results suggest that one day it may even be possible to reconstruct the visual contents of dreams or visual imagery,'' Prof Gallant said.

Any brain-reading device that aims to decode stored memories will, however, be limited not only by then technology itself, but also by the quality of the information stored in the mind, he added.

Drawing an analogy between the ethical issues raised by the method and current debates over availability of genetic information and its potential use by the military or security services, he said, ''The authors believe that no one should be subjected to any form of brain-reading process involuntarily, covertly, or without complete informed consent.'' UNI XC SYU RAI1141

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