Before long, your private inner world won’t be private anymore.
In a recent phenomenal study, scientists mapped out and codified a small area of the visual cortex while individuals watched movies (Nishimoto, Vu, Naselaris, Benjamini, Yu, & Gallant, 2011). A computer program was used to decode the data from this brain region and reconstruct it. Individuals were then exposed to new movies, and their brain activity was recorded while they watched these videos. Below is a side-by-side view of the original movie and the reconstruction of it based upon their fMRI activity:
As you can see, this study was able to reconstruct mental images with remarkable accuracy based solely upon fMRI data. The creepiness of this increases when you recall that they only mapped and coded for a small area of the visual cortex, and coding for a larger part of it would only increase the accuracy of the image reproduced. The point of this study was to demonstrate that dynamic brain activity measured under normal conditions can be reconstructed given the current technology. Now that this technology is in place, the researchers have said elsewhere that they intend to further develop this so that we can reconstruct the subjective experiences of coma patients or patients with locked-in syndrome. Personally, I think lie detectors might get a lot more intricate pretty soon.
Now, for any regular readers, my next entry will take a little bit to get up. I’m going to try to write a pretty thorough and helpful entry on neuroscience and free will. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.