Extract Images Directly From The Human Brain

In his 1958 story No, No, Not Rogov!, sf writer Cordwainer Smith wrote about an espionage machine that would actually let you see what another person saw by probing their brain:

He had then turned away from the reception of pure thought to the reception of visual and auditory images. Where the nerve-ends reached the brain itself, he had managed over the years to distinguish whole packets of microphenomena, and on some of these he had managed to get a fix.

With infinitely delicate tuning he had succeeded one day in picking up in picking up the eyesight of their second chauffeur... and had managed to see through the other man's eyes as the other man, all unaware, washed their Zis limousine sixteen hundred meters away...
(Read more about Cordwainer Smith's espionage machine)

Is it possible to literally see the contents of another person's mind? Researchers at Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) in Kyoto have developed a technology to transmit images from the viewer's brain.


(fMRI reveals brain image contents directly)

Here's how the technique works:

ATR researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani and others on the team divided vision up into a grid of 100 squares, estimated the brightness of each square from brain activity patterns, and developed a method to reproduce this in black and white.

At first, subjects in the study were shown 440 types of images with the squares having various levels of brightness, and changes in the blood flow in the visual cortex when they viewed each image were measured through a process called functional magnetic resonance imaging. This data was used to "train" a computer. Next, when the subjects were shown squares, x marks, letters of the alphabet and other pictures, the images were able to be reproduced near perfect on a computer screen, although they were not sharp. Six subjects took part in the experiment and the process was reportedly successful with all of them.

Take a look at these similar results.


(Brain image contents extracted using fMRI)

The results look a lot like those of a similar study done in 1999. Garett B. Stanley, Fei F. Li and Yang Dan literally jacked into the mind of a cat. Multiple cells in the LGN of anesthetized cats were recorded simultaneously with multielectrodes.


(From Cat Brain Video - bottom set)

You probably don't need a mind-reading machine to know how amazed I am at this research. Read more about how scientists 'jacked into' the brain of a cat ten years ago. From Mainichi News via Pink Tentacle. Thanks to Misja van Laatum for suggesting this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/12/2008)

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