Scary invention! They will read your mind


Lerato Khumalo

Artificial intelligence technologies and developments in neurology have yielded surprising results in recent years. Scientists investigating AI-supported communication opportunities for people who cannot speak are taking great steps towards learning what is going on in a person’s mind by conducting brain scans. However, there are debates about whether technologies aimed at deciphering what is going on in a person’s mind pose a threat to mental privacy.


According to a scientific study prepared by scientists from the University of California San Diego and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, recent developments show that at least some of the thoughts that pass through our heads can now be deciphered by a brain scanner. It is stated that researchers have developed a method that will determine the essence of the words that pass through the mind. Experts who develop implants that work with brain signals have been working on technologies that will allow them to obtain ‘communication output’ from people who have lost the ability to speak. It is not yet clear how close the project is to mind reading, but concerns about the technology being misused suggest rapid developments are taking place.

The latest study by scientists from the University of San Diego and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge has been published.


The latest development in this area was published this week in Nature. Scientists have created the highest-resolution map yet of the neurons that code the meaning of various words by listening to people’s brains. The results show that the brain uses the same standard categories to classify words, helping us convert sound into meaning. So far, the study is based only on words in English. But it is a step toward understanding how the brain stores words in its language library, says Ziv Williams, a neurosurgeon at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.By mapping the ‘overlapping clusters of brain cells’ that respond to various words, we can begin to build a dictionary of meaning.” he says. The details of the study are described in Nature as follows:


“Williams and his colleagues had a unique opportunity to look at how individual neurons encode language in real time. Ten people who were preparing for epilepsy surgery were recruited. Electrodes were implanted in each of their brains to identify the source of their seizures. The electrodes allowed them to record the activity of about 300 neurons in each subject’s prefrontal cortex.”

Scary invention! They will read your mind - Picture : 2
It has been observed for the first time how the brain groups similar and related words into the same categories.


“The scientists recorded which neurons fired and when while the participants listened to multiple short sentences containing about 450 words in total. About two or three different neurons fired for each word, Williams says, but he notes that the team recorded the activity of only a small fraction of the prefrontal cortex’s billions of neurons. The researchers then looked at the similarity between words that triggered the same neuronal activity: words that responded to the same group of neurons fell into similar categories, such as words associated with actions or people.


“The team found that words that the brain might associate with each other, such as ‘duck’ and ‘egg,’ triggered some of the same neurons. Words with similar meanings, such as ‘mouse’ and ‘rat,’ triggered patterns of neuronal activity that were more similar than the patterns triggered by ‘mouse’ and ‘carrot.’ Other groups of neurons responded to words associated with more abstract concepts, such as ‘above’ and ‘behind’. “It was determined that the categories that the brain assigned to words were similar across participants, indicating that the human brain groups all meanings in the same way.”

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