Friday, December 19, 2008

Scientists can tell what your eyes see

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(China Daily) Researchers have reproduced images of things people were looking at by analyzing brain scans, opening the way for people to communicate directly from their mind.

They hope their study, published in the journal Neuron, will lead to helping people with speech problems or doctors studying mental disorders, although there are privacy concerns.

"When we want to convey a message, we need to move our body by speaking or by tapping a keyboard," said Yukiyasu Kamitani, the project's head researcher from the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International in Japan.

"But if we can get information directly from the brain, it will be possible to communicate directly by imagining what we want to say, without having to move."

When we see, light is converted into electric signals by the retina, at the back of the eye, then processed by the brain's visual cortex.

Researchers used a medical brain scanner to look at activity patterns in the visual cortex. Kamitani's team calibrated a computer program by scanning two volunteers staring at over 400 different still images in black, white and grey.

Then, the volunteers were shown different black-and-white geometric figures and letters of the alphabet.

Their computer program was able to reproduce the figures and letters that the volunteers had seen, although more blurry than the originals (see graphic).

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