Where Big Brother really is…
Big Brother’s In Your Brain
Neurologists in Berlin used an MRI scanner to analyse people’s brain activity and predict what action they will take. Participants were asked to decide whether to add or subtract two numbers before they were flashed on a screen. In 70% of cases researchers were able to predict the action purely from looking at the subject’s visual cortex activity. This is the first time this has been achieved; previously scientists could see people thinking about moving a limb but not higher level decision making processes.
The experiment raises all sorts of ethical issues regarding the privacy of people’s thoughts. But alarm is perhaps a little premature; MRI scanners large and incredibly heavy tubes with a nasty habit of stealing other people’s loose change and house keys due to their large magnetic fields. They’ll need to be refined somewhat before they can be used by any power in the world to spy on people. Plus most police officeres might lack the necessary abilities to interpret MRI scans so far.
The scientists, led by Dr. John-Dylan Haynes at Berlin‘s Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, have also only managed to predict the results of clear cut decisions; most people make far more complex choices every day so it’ll be a while before you need to worry and start wearing a sexy magnet-repelling bucket while entering an airport. But, who knows?
Author: Haynes, J.D.; Rees, G.
Title: Predicting the stream of consciousness from activity in human visual cortex.
Journal: Curr Biol
authoraddress: Wellcome Department of Imaging Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, University College London, 12 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom. firstname.lastname@example.org
keywords: Adult ; Consciousness/*physiology ; Discriminant Analysis ; Evoked Potentials/physiology ; Humans ; Linear Models ; Magnetic Resonance Imaging ; Photic Stimulation ; Vision Disparity/*physiology ; Visual Cortex/*physiology