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Friday, February 9th 2007

Minority Report Coming Into Own?

Neuroscientists in Germany use fMRI to predict what subjects are about to do next (h/t Reddit).


Computer Interpretation of fMRI Data

During the study, the researchers asked volunteers to decide whether to add or subtract two numbers they were later shown on a screen.

Before the numbers flashed up, they were given a brain scan using a technique called functional magnetic imaging resonance. The researchers then used a software that had been designed to spot subtle differences in brain activity to predict the person’s intentions with 70% accuracy.

The study revealed signatures of activity in a marble-sized part of the brain called the medial prefrontal cortex that changed when a person intended to add the numbers or subtract them.

Because brains differ so much, the scientists need a good idea of what a person’s brain activity looks like when they are thinking something to be able to spot it in a scan, but researchers are already devising ways of deducing what patterns are associated with different thoughts.

As the article points out, this raises so many questions. You can read more about functional MRIs here.

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