How is this possible, mind reading? Imagine if this were real. You could know what your mom and dad were thinking so you don’t get in trouble or you could think of something you want to tell your friend and they would know it instantly! Also, it would help the almost 4.1 million people suffering from autism, and Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It could help them speak by processing what they think into words.
Thanks to Drs. Brian Pasley and Robert Knight of University of California at Berkley, along with researchers from UC Berkley’s Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California at San Francisco, University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins, mind reading could be a possibility very soon.
Pasley, Knight, and their team of researchers found that the brain hears sounds by “breaking down sound into its component acoustic frequencies.” They used 15 volunteers who were already scheduled for brain surgery. The volunteers had electrode nets put on their brains during surgery. The net covered the temporal lobe, the part of the brain that deals with speech. Then they listened to pre-recorded words for 5 to 10 minutes. Pasley went to the hospital every day to record the brain activity. Their research led to the manufacturing of two computer models. These models were used to analyze sounds like the human brain would. They would “hear” and match brain patterns to individual sounds.
The models were tested using one word audio recordings. Then the models predicted the word that they heard by analyzing the brain’s electrical pattern. One of the two models had a closer prediction of the words, so close that Knight and Pasley could pick the word from a list of two options; 90% of the time they were right. This means that you could know what a person is saying by reading their brain waves! It is unknown how many words they heard.
“This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of stroke or Lou Gehrig’s disease and can’t speak,” says Knight. They announced their findings in January of 2012.
The final thing that the researchers need to make this possible is a speech processing chip. The chip will have electrodes and electrical conductors. The electrodes will have to be placed on the brain as a sensor. The chip is similar to the one used to test the research models . Further research will need to be done to develop the chip. When the chips developed we will be one step closer to mind reading.
Knight and Pasley said that their research would be more accurate if they could study a person’s brain during a long conversation. Also, the study would be more accurate if they could study the parts of the brain that deal with speech and speech processing (the temporal lobe).
How would mind reading be used by teens? We asked some of our classmates and teachers if they could mind read what would they do? The most common answer among the girls is “see what people think about me and see if they were lying to me.” The most common answer among the guys is “get all the answers to quizzes and tests.” Mrs. Marsha Buerger, our science teacher, said, “If I could read minds I would use it to find out how to help students learn better.” Haley Thompson Emily Metcalfe
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