It may now appear to be just the stuff of science fiction but scientists say that a mind-reading device is inching its way closer to reality.
In fact, an international team claims to have already showed that it could tell what someone was hearing just by decoding their brain waves, a breakthrough which may lead to an implant that can interpret imagined speech in patients who can’t talk.
In their research, the scientists demonstrated that the brain breaks down words into complex patterns of electrical activity, which can be decoded and translated back into an approximate version of the original sound.
And, as the brain is believed to process thought in a similar way to sound, the research offers hope to thousands of brain-damaged patients who are not being able to communicate with their loved ones, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Prof Robert Knight, one of the researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, said, “This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig’s disease and can’t speak. If you’d eventually reconstruct imagined conversations from brain activity, thousands of people could benefit.”
For their research, the scientists analysed 15 epilepsy patients who were undergoing exploratory surgery to find the cause of their seizures, a process in which electrodes are connected to the brain through a hole in the skull. While the electrodes were attached, the scientists monitored activity in the temporal lobe — a speech-processing area of the brain — as the patients listened to five to 10 minutes of conversation.