Brain reading

John-Dylan Haynes

in I Know What You're Thinking

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780199596492
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191745669 | DOI:
Brain reading

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For a long time neuroscience has focused on basic research, but now studies have begun to demonstrate how brain science can be put to use to solve practical real-world problems. Specifically, research in human neuroimaging has led to the development of techniques that allow to accurately read out a person's conscious experience based only on non-invasive EEG and fMRI measurements of their brain activity. Such ‘brain reading’ is possible because each thought is associated with a unique pattern of brain activity that can serve as a ‘fingerprint’ of this thought in the brain. By training a computer to recognize these fMRI patterns associated with each thought it is possible to read out what someone is currently thinking with high accuracy. Despite these promising findings, there are still many limitations that make it unlikely that a ‘universal thought reading machine’ will be developed in the near future. Nonetheless, the first simple applications have begun to emerge, including brain-computer-interfaces, more reliable lie detectors and approaches for predicting consumer decisions. These raise ethical concerns related to mental privacy, data security and quality control.

Keywords: brain reading; fMRI; privacy; data security; quality control; prostheses; lie detectors; ethics; consumer decisions

Chapter.  6313 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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