Is it possible to read someone's mind?

Enrique ecastro at
Mon May 7 12:32:18 EST 2001

Richard Vickery wrote:
> >> Given the current state of the science, is it possible to attach
> >electrodes
> >> to someones brain and read their thoughts? If it is not, then, what is
> >your projection for the time at which it will be possible?
> >i read that early in the 80s someone monitored their own EEG's
> >and successfully trained their brains to give various localized
> >signal patterns.  i guess using that same apparatus (multichannel
> >EEG) one could train an artificial neural net to recognize EEG
> >patterns while classifying his own thoughts at the moment, and
> >using that as the target (supervised training).
> >the difficulty is in obtaining enough data and finding someone
> >patient enough to do this for extended periods of time.  fMRI
> >is another possibility.  i guess researchers could build EEG /
> >fMRI databases to enable this type of analysis.
> >
> >so i think the bottleneck is that not many people are doing
> >this type of research, and secondly might be computer power.
> >
> >hmmm.. if under my supervision.. 10 years? =))
> Read Richard Norman's response - he is correct as far as I am concerned on all
> major points.
Absolutely !

> The EEG is an averaged response from many millions of neurons.  What is lost
> in the averaging is all the detail like what the person is thinking, the EEG
> just tells you WHETHER they are thinking  (their brain state: asleep, relaxed
> etc)
> In principle you really would need to know what each neuron is doing - fMRI
> has time and space resolution problems, EEG has space resolution problems.  It
> is not inconceivable that new technology could allow us to simultaneously
> monitor the activity of billions of neurons, but to interpret the role of each
> of the neurons would probably take more than thelifetime of each individual
> that you tried to analyse.
In a previous post Ron Blue claimed the Air Force has a
system to control aircraft "by thoughts". I think this is an
urban legend. 

However I am aware of at least one published case of a
device controlled by brain electrical activity. I think i
saw it in Nature or Science. 

The device was a virtual keyboard were a tetraplejic patient
could write. He had an array of electrodes (something like
16 or 24) inplanted permanently and conected to a
radiotrasmitter under scalp skin.    
They just trained a neural network in the receiving computer
to move a mouse pointer over the virtual keyboard. EEG had
not enough bandwidth to do the work, but the array had more
than needed. 

This is just a bit towards the goal of non-touching control.
But a very different task to try to know what a person is
thinking. We don't even know what abstract thinking is!


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