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New Technology Can Read Our Minds

First Posted: Jun 30, 2017 08:29 AM EDT

Computers are catching up to humans. Not only can they speak like people, but they can now identify complex human communication and thoughts.

An example of a complex thought would be, "I like going to the park with my partner."

Carnegie Mellon University scientists used brain activation technology to understand features of thoughts. Using these advances, the researchers discovered that the brain has various sub-systems that are not based on words. These systems help engage in complex thought. In other words, different pieces of information, such as tone, meaning, consistency, and physical interaction are processed in a distinct neural system. By using this system, the computer is able to assess various categories of thoughts.

With this in mind, scientists are making claims that the conceptual representative facets of the human mind are universal across cultures.

The findings are published in Human Brain Mapping.

"One of the big advances of the human brain was the ability to combine individual concepts into complex thoughts, to think not just of 'bananas,' but 'I like to eat bananas in evening with my friends,'" said Just, lead author of the study. "We have finally developed a way to see thoughts of that complexity in the fMRI signal. The discovery of this correspondence between thoughts and brain activation patterns tells us what the thoughts are built of."

With 87 percent accuracy, the computer was ultimately able to predict characteristics missed from incomplete sentences. What's more, this model could do the reverse - it could even predict a never seen sentence knowing only the semantic features of the thought.

"Our method overcomes the unfortunate property of fMRI to smear together the signals emanating from brain events that occur close together in time, like the reading of two successive words in a sentence," Just explained. "This advance makes it possible for the first time to decode thoughts containing several concepts. That's what most human thoughts are composed of."

What's next? Just said they are trying to " decode the general type of topic a person is thinking about, such as geology or skateboarding. We are on the way to making a map of all the types of knowledge in the brain."

I wouldn't be surprised if one day the computer program understood how cool this all was.

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