Study finds memories form distinct brain activation patterns

NPR reports:

Machines that decode your thoughts aren’t limited to the realm of science fiction anymore.

A computer program that analyzes brain scans was able to tell which of three short films people were thinking about, according to a study in the journal Current Biology.

“We were able to predict just from their brain activity which of those memories they were recalling,” says Eleanor A. Maguire, one of the study’s authors and a professor of cognitive neuroscience at University College London.

This is a major step forward, Maguire says. But it falls short of what most people would call mind reading. “We can’t put somebody in a brain scanner and immediately know what thoughts they are having,” she says…

Data from these scans of activity in the hippocampus was analyzed by a computer program that looked for distinct patterns of activity associated with each film. And Maguire says the program found them. “In every single case it was able to predict with high accuracy which of the memories those 10 participants were recalling,” she says

That was what the scientists expected to find. What surprised them, though, was how similar the patterns were across all 10 brains. The brain activity associated with each film clip “was incredibly consistent,” Maguire says.

The paper is available here (free access to abstract, subscription required to access full paper).


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