Our understanding of the brain inner working are progressing at top speed, thanks to sophisticated brain imaging that let researchers correlate brain activity with input and output stimuli. Clearly, this goes far beyond the pure accumulation of knowledge, it opens up new possibilities to cure disabilities.
Just imagine you suffered a stroke that disable you speech capacity. You could still be able to think and vocalize in your brain but you would be unable to speak it up. What if scientist can read your mind and use a computer to actually speak up for you? That would be great!
And this is exactly what scientist are doing at Berkely University in California.
For the time being they have placed 256 electrodes on the brain of patients who underwent brain surgery for intractable seizures. The electrodes where intended to monitor the electrical activity of the brain on the temporal lobe to determine the origin of seizures for treatment. In the research these patients (with their consent of course) where also studied to detect specific patterns related to specific stimuli. The temporal lobe is the place where the voice is processed and the researchers where able to reconstruct the voices heard by those patients looking at the electrical activity in the area.
Interestingly, those same activities are performed when those patients wanted to utter a phrase so that it becomes possible to translate “thoughts” into spoken phrases (when we think we actually “speak” within our brain.
This news has triggered the imagination of many and it has already been published in several daily newspapers.
Now, this is very good, and clearly provides another way to interface our brain to the world but at the same time doesn’t it make you feel uneasy knowing that at some point in the future your thoughts can be “read”?
No longer needed to “read my lips”: just “read my brain”!