“Mindfreak” to become reality

Posted on November 15, 2011

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Everyone knows Edward Cullen or the Jedis, the mind-reading characters from Twilight and Star Wars. Have you ever wanted to have their mind-reading capabilities? Or, have you ever wanted to read the mind of someone you have a crush on to find out what they really think of you? Well, recent discoveries in the areas of mind-reading and mind control at the University of Minnesota and other institutions may soon help you.

There are different methods being used to study mind-reading. Most studies are focusing on interpreting how someone’s mind is working at a given time, or what action a person is planning moments before they actually do it. New studies use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to scan the brain and determine what someone is actually thinking about.

Recently, The Economist reported that researchers at the University of Minnesota were able to “give test subjects the ability to control a digital helicopter through a virtual, three-dimensional space using the power of thought.” The brain control was recorded using electrodes that were connected to the subjects’ scalps. This discovery is very promising as well as interesting and useful.

“Mind reading of this sort will allow the disabled to lead more normal lives, and the able-bodied to extend their range of possibilities further,” according to Professor Bin at the University of Minnesota.

At the University of Western Ontario, researchers can’t exactly read someone’s thoughts, but they can tell what action a person is planning to take just before they do it.

Brain activity was scanned using fMRI while the subjects picked up objects with their hands. This information told the researchers which action the subject was planning to take.

“Neuroimaging allows us to look at how action planning unfolds within human brain areas without having to insert electrodes directly into the human brain. This is obviously far less intrusive,” explained Professor Jody Culham, who was part of the research team.

The closest scientists have gotten to what most of us would consider actual mind-reading has been to read fMRI scans to find out what topic a person was thinking about, as reflected in the pattern of activity across all areas of the subjects’ brains.

Just imagine all of the possible uses for mind-reading. For the disabled, this research is exciting, because there are so many ways it could positively change their lives. Imagine a person being able to control prosthetic limbs with their thoughts.

Although the potential benefits are endless, Stephanie Reitz , an AP Psychology student, also realizes there is a possibility for abuse of mind-reading technology and its impact: “It depends on who controls the technology and for what purpose.” 

Reported by Kelsey Hernandez

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