Scientists are currently constructing something like X-Men’s Professor Xavier’s reading-mind machine. Their motivation is to make life better for people who cannot speak by translating their brain activities involving their thoughts into words in the form of sounds.
Reading people’s thoughts might be more something of science-fiction movies and books, but, some scientists want to make of it a reality. Or, at least, try to.
A team of researchers have set out to conquer this long-held desire of mankind to read people’s minds and hearts. They have put together a device and a computer programme to convert brain activity into words in the form of sounds. Ambitious much, eh?
The scientific theory behind their research is based on the relationship between the sound of words and neurones. Specific neurones are activated for each word that is spoken – this is how the brain responds to the sound of words. The scientists wish to develop an algorithm to translate the brain activity back into words to help people who have not been gifted the faculty of speech. In short, their goal is to read what the mind itself is silently reading.
One of the authors, Brian Pasley, stated that:
“If you’re reading text in a newspaper or book, you hear a voice in your own head. We’re trying to decode the brain activity related to that voice to create a medical prosthesis that can allow someone who is paralysed or locked in to speak.“
The brain activities of 7 people going through epilepsy surgery were monitored as they were made to look at a screen which displayed the words of certain nursery rhymes, and other reading materials. Two sets of data were collected: once when they were reading the text out loud, and another when they were silently reading it. The spoken data were fed into the machines to construct a personal decoder for every patient to build a visual representation. The decoder was then used during silent reading. The scientists then found that several words were reconstructed using this method.
The researchers are positive that their work might pave the way to monitoring people’s thoughts when they have lost the power of expressing themselves through speech. This might take a long time though.