Have Scientists Found a Way to Read Minds?

By Emily Murray

While there are many times we wish someone could just read our mind, there are likely an equal amount of moments we are glad they can’t. It’s safe to think these things since most of us feel that the idea of mind-reading is something that exists merely in science-fiction movies. The truth is, with the latest scientific study, soon the idea of reading minds may simply come down to having the technology to measure brain waves.

While this fact alone has probably already raised some questions in your mind, there is a strong motivation behind research like this. Imagine if you lost the ability to communicate with the outside world but could still fully form thoughts in your mind. Wouldn’t it be amazing if your brain waves could be interpreted and your thoughts could still be known?

This study was recently published in the January 31st issue of PLoS Biology.

As part of the study, scientists were able to input electrodes in the brains of those who were undergoing brain surgery. These patients were then read a single word while the scientists used two methods of brain wave decoding via computer. From this experiment, scientists were able to identify that of the two, one was far more effective.

The program was able to repeat the word from translating brain waves which was incredible enough on its own, but there was something even more shocking. Scientists had little hope that this would work, especially if the patient had only heard the word once. Though the sound was not perfect after hearing it once, researchers were still able to identify the word.

There is still of course a long way to go for this type of technology to ever come to fruition. While this is a great step toward being able to read minds, it is only the beginning since this test in particular was based merely on the brain’s perception of a word being spoken, not original ideas or thoughts produced by the brain.

For families who are no longer able to communicate with a loved one, if this research plays out, the idea of hearing their thoughts is no longer far fetched.

A statement which was released to the public quotes Robert Knight, the  co-author  of the study, as he explains the impact this type of technology could have on the medical community.

“This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig’s disease and can’t speak. If you could eventually reconstruct  imagined conversations from brain activity, thousands of people could benefit. The research is also telling us a lot about how the brain in normal people represents and processes speech sounds.”