Research reads minds

Lona Middleton
Copy Editor


Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

How many of us wish we knew what a person was thinking at a certain moment? I would wager most if not all of us have wanted this super power at one time or another. Thanks to a group of scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, we now can. That’s right, according to an article published in Frontiers in Neuroengineering this intrepid group of researchers have devised a way to know what a person is thinking.

How could this possibly work? It turns out it isn’t as complicated as you may think. When we speak to one another, our voices make sound waves and these waves trigger a multitude of things in our brains like neurons to fire, nerve cells to activate and so on. That makes sense since we are hearing these words but what if we are reading them silently, to ourselves? It turns out that these same neurons and firing patterns were triggered then as well.

The researchers were able to place small electrodes on the surface of the brain and then record the brains reactions to both spoken words and words thought. They were even able to decipher what type of music a person was listening to depending on the neuron reactions in the brain.  The results aren’t specific enough to give exact words only a semblance of an idea. If a person is thinking of a food they could tell but the researchers couldn’t say the person wanted cheese pizza with pepperoni and bacon.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Although this isn’t an extremely accurate method of interpreting what we are thinking it is a huge step forward. This has many practical applications in the medical field. It won’t make us all mind reading mutants like pop culture would have us believe but it could lead to a better understanding of what people want and need that are unable to communicate with us. There are many people that have been either paralyzed or born unable to speak accurately that this research could benefit profoundly.

It may sound farfetched but this study into reading and interpreting our inner thoughts could lead to a great breakthrough for those who have no other way of telling us what they want to say.


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