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Scientists Reconstruct the 'Movies in Our Minds'
Date:9/22/2011

THURSDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers are getting closer to scanning the human brain, decoding what they find there, and then replaying the "movies in our heads" for all to see.

Ripping a page from the world of sci-fi, scientists from the University of California, Berkeley have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans to take a high-tech peek into the blood flow and neural signaling patterns of an individual's brain.

In turn, they have created a computer program that carefully "reads" and decodes these patterns, then reconstructs them back into images that approximate what the individual had just seen.

In this case, the stimulus was a collection of Hollywood movie trailers. The UC Berkeley team say their ability to discern and recreate images based on computational analysis of cranial activity is "a major leap" toward mind-reading.

"We are opening a window into the movies in our minds," UC Berkeley neuroscientist and study co-author Jack Gallant said in a university news release.

Gallant and his colleagues published their report in the Sept. 22 issue of Current Biology.

This is not the first time Gallant's team has attempted to gain access into the workings of the brain's visual cortex.

In prior work, the group put together a computer algorithm to track and then predict brain activity sparked by the viewing of a series of black and white photographs. That effort enabled them to identify whatever picture each test subject was shown simply by "reading" their visual cortex map.

This time around, Gallant's group took their work to a new level, using themselves as guinea pigs in the process.

While spending hours remaining motionless inside an fMRI machine, three research team members were first subjected to a set of movie trailers as the machine recorded measurements of blood flow through the visual cortex. Neural activity was also monitored.

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