The mind-reading machine: could allow police to arrest people before they break the law

Daily Mail
12.03.2010
By Fiona Macrae

The mind-reading machine: ‘Psychic’ computer invented that can tell what you’re thinking

A computer program that can read your mind has been developed by British scientists.

In tests, it was able to access and interpret memories by scanning the brain patterns of volunteers.

The computer had a high success rate in telling which of three short films the subjects were thinking about.

Eleanor Maguire, of the University College London research team, said the work meant we were ‘approaching the realm of mind-reading’.

The seven-second film clips showed women going about daily tasks, such as posting a letter. Then, while their brains were scanned, the volunteers were asked to think about what they had seen.

The brain lit up differently for each film, allowing the researchers to create a program that homed in on the patterns. The volunteers were then asked to think about the clips again and the ‘psychic’ computer worked out which one they had in mind.

The machine recorded a 45 per cent success rate - significantly higher than would have been expected through chance alone, the journal Current Biology reports.

Professor Maguire said: ‘In our previous experiment, we were looking at basic memories, at someone’s location.

What is more interesting is to look at episodic memories - the complex, everyday memories that include much more information on where we are, what we are doing and how we feel.’

Lead researcher Martin Chadwick said: ‘It suggests that our memories are recorded in a regular pattern.’

The study, which was funded by the Wellcome Trust, focused on the hippocampus, a small area of the brain that plays a key role in memory, navigation and imagining the future.

Unravelling the workings of memory raises the prospect of developing infallible lie detector tests.

The interpretation of intentions could even allow police to arrest criminals before they break the law, as seen in the 2002 Tom Cruise film, Minority Report.

Full article

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