Scientists Figuring Out How to Watch Brains Form Words

A team of scientists at the University of Washington have found the place in the brain that makes the sounds that we use to form words and thoughts. By using some fancy computer programs, they believe they could one day interpret these brain signals well enough to identify actual words and thoughts in our heads. Which is basically mind-reading, isn't it?

"It really goes pretty close to what people used to call mind reading," explains Gerwin Schalk, a researcher based at the New York State Department of Health who's been working with the U of W scientists. The team in Washington had been investigating potential causes of epilepsy when they realized they could pick up the electrical signals that corresponded to the sounds being made by their research subjects, who were hooked up to some electrodes and other devices.

As Eric Leuthardt, director of the University of Washington's Center for Innovation in Neuroscience and Technology, explained to the Sunday Times:

‘What it shows is that the brain is not the black box that we have philosophically assumed it to be for generations past.

‘I'm not going to say that I can fully read someone's mind. I can't. But I have evidence now that it is possible.'

"That's so Orwellian!" You were going to say that, weren't you? My mind-reading machine says that's what you were thinking. Or maybe your brain was saying, "Matt's so unwell again"; it was hard to tell. I guess my machine needs some more work.

[Daily Mail, NPR]