Scientists Can Now Actually Read Your Mind! Here’s How!

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Are you lying? Are you a morally intact person? Are you inclined to commit crimes? In order to learn the answers to these questions, you have to ask and find out the truth from what the person has to say. Or you may try analyzing their body language.

Or, you can read their mind...

We haven’t developed reliable methods to understand what a person actually thinks.

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Surveys, inquiries, and lie detector machines have been used for many years, even if most of them were unreliable. We couldn’t “read” minds, and what’s more is that maybe the person in question wasn’t even aware of the truth, so it was impossible to learn what was on their mind.

But now we have the technology that enables us to “read" minds with growing accuracy: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

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fMRI is, as you know, not really a new technology. This system is a brain imaging technique that follows the changes in blood flow to reveal brain activity indirectly and allows scientists to observe this activity simultaneously.

fMRI, a very safe and effective technique, has changed our perspective on the human brain in recent years.

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fMRI has revealed the parts of our brain responsible for our speech skills, our movements, our memories, our learning ability, and many more.

Scientists have been using this technique for a number of different research areas as well.

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One of them comes from Jack Gallant’s lab at the University of California. His team showed movie trailers to their volunteers and managed to reconstruct these video clips based on the subjects’ brain activity, using a machine learning algorithm. By doing this, the computer developed a model based on the subject’s brain activity rather than being fed a pre-programmed solution by the researchers.

The model improved with practice and after having access to enough data, it decoded brain activity.

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The reconstructed clips were blurry and the experiment involved extended training periods. But for the first time, brain activity was decoded well enough to reconstruct such complex stimuli with impressive detail.

What could fMRI do in the future?

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The detection of lies is one of the most interesting topics scientists have been working on. Using the model we mentioned above, it will be possible to detect lies. Moreover, this technology will be able to detect crimes even before they are committed.

But still, we have a long way to go to get there...

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The accuracy that’s been achieved using this method is 905%. Impressive, right?  Nine out of ten times, the computer correctly classified answers as lies or truths. This is far better than traditional measures such as the polygraph, which is thought to be only about 70% accurate.

But experts say “even if we can make the technology more accurate, fMRI will never be error proof. One particularly problematic topic is false memories. The scans can only reflect your beliefs, not necessarily reality. If you falsely believe that you have committed a crime, fMRI can only confirm this belief. We might be tempted to see brain scans as hard evidence, but they are only as good as your own memories: ultimately flawed.”

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