American researchers were able to “read” the inner dialogue in the human brain! The new mind-reading achievement could someday give the ability to talk to people who currently live in “silence” due to illness or injury.
Scientists from the Center for Innovation in Science and Technology, University of Washington, placed an array of 64 electrodes on the scalp of four people suffering from severe epilepsy. The initial aim of this study was to examine what was happening in the brain of these patients and, thereby, was causing seizures.
At the same time, the electrodes controlled the brain areas which are considered to be responsible for speech. These are the motor cortex, Wernicke’s area, and Broca’s area. These brain regions produce 40 phonemes (distinguished vocal sounds in speech) that structure the English language.
Mapping brain signals
The researchers found, as reported in the Journal of Neural Engineering, that each of these phonemes was associated with a unique signal in the brain. These signals can be detected either when a person is speaking loudly or when they are talking to themselves without a sound to come out.
The researchers asked volunteers to produce four repeated sounds: oo, ah, eh, and ee. As the volunteers were producing sounds, the scientists were able to detect the electrical signals of the brain corresponding to each sound.
Reading the inner dialogue
Dr. Eric C. Leuthardt, who led the study, said in an interview:
“I do not claim that I can fully read the human mind because I can’t. But now, I have evidence that it is possible.”
During the study, the researchers also discovered that when a person thinks a word but does not express it, i.e. when their inner dialogue is flowing and their inner voice is speaking, the brain produces a different signal from that when they express it aloud.
However, these findings indicate that someday specialists could be able to “read” even the most innermost thoughts of the human brain and to compare them with what they are saying.
Dr. Leuthardt believes that the results of the research will be able to give “voice” to people who currently can not communicate with those around them, for example, those suffering from such neurological disorders as locked-in syndrome.
Perhaps, someday similar studies will lead to the development of new forms of communication, based solely on the thought… It’s both fascinating and scary, don’t you find?
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