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article imageNew brain scan can read intent

By Critical_Conformity     Feb 9, 2007 in Health
"The potential for application of this technology--for people who are paralysed, for example--is very exciting. But there is also potential for invasion of privacy..."
Brain scans that have been developed claim it can predict what a person is about to do.
Using sophisticated functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) and computer programs, scientists were able to "read minds"
In 70% of cases scientists were able to read the intentions of people who were asked to think about adding or subtracting.
Caution has been advised and such technologies will develop a UK expert has said.
These techniques can be used to help people who are paralysed - there has already been some steps taken towards helping people using computer-assisted prosthetic devices linked to computers.
It may even be possible to carry out instructions such as "send email" simply by thinking them - with a scanner picking up the wish and translating it in a way that the computer can act on.
People were asked to hold their mathematical decision in their minds until they were shown two numbers on a computer screen. The fMRI scans monitored their brain activity for the few seconds they were thinking about their sum, and it was on this information that the scientists made their predictions.
The researchers used a method called "multivariate pattern recognition".
The computer is programmed to recognise characteristic activation patterns in the brain that typically occur in association with specific thoughts.
Once this computer has been "trained" it can be used to predict the decisions of subjects solely from their brain activity alone.
Dr John-Dylan Haynes, who led the research, said: "It has been previously assumed that freely selected plans might be stored in the middle regions of the prefrontal cortex, whereas plans following external instructions could be stored on the surface of the brain.
"We were able to confirm this theory in our experiments."
He added: "The experiments show that intentions are not encoded in single neurons but in a whole spatial pattern of brain activity."
Regions towards the front of the brain store the intention until it is executed, whereas regions further back take over when subjects become active and start doing the calculation.
"We shouldn't go overboard about the power of these technologies at the moment.
"But what you can be absolutely sure of is that these will continue to roll out and we will have more and more ability to probe people's intentions, minds, background thoughts, hopes and emotions."
More about New, Brain scan can read intent, United Kingdom, Intent, Computers
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