Machine for pc and macintosh that can read your mind (This is no a joke)

Joseph Strout jstrout at
Tue Aug 8 10:29:13 EST 1995

"Brain waves" generally refers to the electric field generated 
collectively by the membrane potential of billions of neurons, as 
measured by an EEG (electroencephalogram) machine.  This involves taping 
at least two, and often dozens of electrodes to the scalp.  Even then, 
the signals are very small, and very difficult to interpret.  At best, 
they can give a measure of the activity within general regions of the 
brain -- similar to the PET scans which have made much news in the last 
few years, but with much better temporal resolution and worse spatial 
resolution.  But even an EEG cannot "read your mind" or your thoughts.  
With practice (and feedback), one can learn to control certain aspects of 
the signal to control devices.  However, the EEG is very sensitive to 
electrical activity in the scalp muscles, and it seems likely that these 
EEG-controlled trains and such are controlled more by minute muscle 
tension than by "brain waves".

As for "brain waves" and thoughts being read from your fingertip -- I 
don't think so.  With practice, though, one might be able to control a 
device through subtle adjustments to muscular tension, skin conductivity, 
etc., which have been shown to be learnable through biofeedback.  The 
subject might not even be aware of what's going on, and so might 
(erroneously) conclude that the machine is reading her thoughts.  But 
this control would not come without practice, as the news story claimed.

Just my $0.02 worth...

|    Joseph J. Strout           Department of Neuroscience, UCSD   |
|    jstrout at     |

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