Scientists Create Mind-Reading Program That Translates Recorded Brain Activity Into Words

Posted on February 1, 2012

The Guardian reports that researchers recorded the brain activity of volunteers while they were listening to audio of spoken words. The volunteers were current epilepsy patients that were already in the hospital for an operation that involves removing the top of the skull. The researchers were able to place electrodes directly onto the brains of the patients for the experiment.

A software program created by the researchers was then used to translate the recorded brain activity back into words. The program was able to decipher some of the words the volunteers had heard. This included the words "Waldo," doubt" and "property."

Brian Pasley, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist and lead author of the study, told ABC News, "As you listen to a sound, it activates certain parts of the auditory cortex of your brain. We're interested in how the brain converts sound into meaning, so we looked at an early step in a long process."

The technology could pave the way for a device that could help people communicate for coma patients. It may also be a step towards a dream recording device or an intrusive way to record people's thoughts, but so far the technology is only able to translate the brain activity that resulted from someone directly hearing a word. The brain activity that occurs when someone spontaneously thinks of a word could be very different than the brain activity that occurs when someone hears a word. The brain activity may even vary from person to person, which would make translating a person's thoughts into words an extraordinary complex task.

Take a look:

The research was published here in PLoS Biology.