What are you thinking about? Can Brain Scans read your mind?
You wouldn’t always want the answer to that question available to others, but science may be heading in that direction.
For now, researchers are far from being able to tap into your thoughts. But a new study shows how, just by looking at brain activity, it may be possible to see whether or not you’re thinking about numbers.
“The patient doesn’t need to talk to you. They can think about numbers and you can see that red mark (corresponding with activity in a particular brain region) go up,” said Dr. Josef Parvizi, associate professor of neurology at the Stanford University Medical Center and senior author of the study.
The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.
These patients had electrodes implanted in their brains to locate the source of their seizures. Surgeons perform this procedure to isolate or remove the area where seizures begin.
The researchers used these electrodes that had been implanted for locating seizures to investigate brain activity in relation to thinking about numbers, particularly in the parietal lobe.
In one part of the experiment, patients looked at a computer screen while lying down and responded to prompts regarding the accuracy of statements. They would press “one” if the sentence or mathematical equation were correct, “two” if incorrect.
They recorded conversations between patients and experimenters, and juxtaposed the brain activity data to show the correlations between spiking activity in the math-related brain region and quantitative statements that patients made.
When patients were seeing, thinking or talking without a script, it seemed that the natural activation in the parietal lobe tended to occur right before they said something quantitative.
This is much simpler than trying to decode more specific thoughts from brain activity patterns. There’s no way for scientists to know if you are daydreaming about hiking with your romantic partner, worrying about finishing a big project or making a grocery list.
“We are light years behind in doing such a thing. There is absolutely no way for us to kind of record what exactly the patient is thinking because that needs a lot of complicated decoding,” Parvizi said.
Instead, this study presents a method of studying brain activity in order to get a general sense of what a person is experiencing through thoughts.
“Of course, it’s just a matter of time (before) you’re going to be able to decode brain activity in very complex conditions, such as thinking,” Parvizi said.
CAN BRAIN SCANS READ YOUR MIND?