Scientists believe they have found a way to read our minds.
They have created a computer program that can decode brain activity that creates the ‘voice in our head’ and put it into words.
The breakthrough could give the ‘locked in’ or paralysed hope that they could one day communicate using the system.
‘If you’re reading text in a newspaper or book, you hear a voice in your own head,’ Brian Pasley told New Scientist .
‘We’re trying to decode the brain activity related to that voice to create a medical prosthesis that can allow someone who is paralysed or locked in to speak.’
The team conducted their first experiments in 2011, and are currently looking at patients who suffer from Aphasia, a condition that robs you of the ability to communicate.
Aphasia can affect your ability to express and understand language, both verbal and written, and typically occurs suddenly after a stroke or a head injury.
In their first experiments, the team recorded the brain activity of seven people undergoing epilepsy surgery while they looked at a screen displaying the nusery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, the Gettysbury Address or the inaugural speech of President John F Kennedy.
Their brain activity was monitored as they read aloud the text and when they read it silently in their heads.
From the spoken data the team managed to build a personal ‘decoder’ for each patient which interpreted the information and turned into a visual representation.
They then applied the decoder to brain activity during silent reading and found that they could reconstruct several words that were being thought just through neural imaging alone.
The reseachers also tested the decode and algorithm with Pink Floyd sons to see which neurons respond to different musical notes.
Although, at an early stage, the team is hopeful that eventually it could be used to monitor what people are thinking when they can no longer speak.
They say it could offer a lifeline to those whose speech has been affected by stroke or degenerative disease, but many will be concerned about the implications of a technique that can eavesdrop on thoughts and reproduce them.
In the earlier experiment, neuroscientists at the University of California Berkeley put electrodes inside the skulls of brain surgery patients to monitor information from their temporal lobe, which is involved in the processing of speech and images.
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