Military wants to study mind-reading
Posted: 16 August 2008 11:53 AM   [ Ignore ]
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LOS ANGELES, California (AP)—Here’s a mind-bending idea: The U.S. military is paying scientists to study ways to read people’s thoughts. The hope is that the research could someday lead to a gadget capable of translating the thoughts of soldiers who suffered brain injuries in combat or even stroke patients in hospitals. But the research also raises concerns that such mind-reading technology could be used to interrogate the enemy.

Armed with a $4 million grant from the Army, scientists are studying brain signals to try to decipher what a person is thinking and to whom the person wants to direct the message. The project is a collaboration among researchers at the University of California, Irvine; Carnegie Mellon University; and the University of Maryland.

The scientists use brain wave-reading technology known as electroencephalography, or EEG, which measures the brain’s electrical activity through electrodes placed on the scalp. It works like this: Volunteers wear an electrode cap and are asked to think of a word chosen by the researchers, who then analyze the brain activity.

In the future, scientists hope to develop thought-recognition software that would allow a computer to speak or type out a person’s thought. “To have a person think in a free manner and then figure out what that is, we’re years away from that,” said lead researcher Michael D’Zmura, who heads UC Irvine’s cognitive sciences department.

D’Zmura said such a system would require extensive training by people trying to send a message and dismisses the notion that thoughts can be forced out. “This will never be used in a way without somebody’s real, active cooperation,” he said. John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Virginia-based defense research firm, said the technology is still too nascent to be of practical use for the military. “They’re still in the proof of principle stage,” Pike said.

Source Article CNN.com

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Posted: 16 August 2008 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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It’s worthy if they use it for soldiers but I don’t believe for two seconds that this wouldn’t be the next big brother.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 12:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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When I first read the headline, it brought to mind that old failed military project to train “mind readers” and “remote viewers” on a large scale to locate enemy hideouts, etc. They spent millions and, obviously, got nowhere.

It appears the difference now is they are going high tech, although electroencephalography is nothing new. From what I understand, they are merely trying to interpret it in new ways? I seriously doubt they would ever be able to “read thoughts” from an electroencephalography. I think more advanced equipment would be required.

I also wonder if, and I have no neurology background here, but I thought everyone’s brains develop slightly differently based on nature/nurture effects, and everyone’s neurons make their own unique connections. I wonder if one person’s thoughts interpreted electrically would mean something totally different in someone else. Would there be differences amongst people who speak different languages?

I don’t believe for a second the military wants this technology to help poor wounded soldiers communicate, unless they had critical information from a mission gone wrong that needed to be extracted. Look at how our veterans are treated now! They can’t even get the rats and mold problems in the hospitals fixed, and they claim this technology will be for communicating with the wounded? Wounded prisoners, maybe! But still, I doubt it would work.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 12:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Well I know they can use ct scans to detect lies but that works differently, it works by analyzing which part of the brain becomes active because they know it takes more to lie.. I dunno I suppose all of our brains are similar to an extent. would cochlear implants work if they didn’t?

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Posted: 16 August 2008 02:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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While they may be able to be more precise in detecting lies and generic kinds of thoughts, I doubt that it would be useful in interrogating prisoners.  As quick as one group finds new technology and methods, the other groups figure out ways of blocking it.  I’m sure that if a prisoner being interrogated was to focus his/her mind in some area, e.g., a very painful early event, a very pleasant memory, a sexual episode, hatred for one of the questioners, etc., this would through off the results enough to make them meaningless.

Of course, that doesn’t apply to innocent citizens who the government wants to interrogate and invade their privacy.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 04:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yes, I feel they may be able to get “general” information using scans or MRIs - they can tell which area of the brain is in use. But for example, the pleasure center of the brain being activated may mean one subject is thinking of food, and another is thinking about a day on the beach. I don’t think they would be able to narrow it down that much further.

Actually, I may be wrong. While discussing all this, I vaguely remembered hearing about this study, and just Googled it. I remember it very distinctly because it was so odd. Here is the link - it’s quite fascinating: Woman in Coma Plays Tennis

From article:

“Brain scans of a woman who has been in a vegetative state for five months show her imagining playing tennis and responding to commands, researchers report.

They say their study, published today in the journal Science, shows the woman was conscious despite her coma-like state, although several experts disagree.”

Really interesting stuff. Some doctors are disagreeing as to whether or not she was “aware” of her responses or if they were automatic. And what would this mean for the definition of unresponsive? Lots of good questions arise from the study.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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This makes me wonder if asking her to for instance, think of something happy for yes or something sad for no, if they could do something like that and figure out if she can answer questions.

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Posted: 16 August 2008 06:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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It is a fascinating case, although they are quick to point out that her traumatic brain injury is unique. The average comatose patient would not be able to yield such results on a scan. While she is technically in a coma, she may share more characteristics with those who suffer from Locked In Syndrome. Her unique condition lends itself to the studies.

I wonder, as you have, if they would be able to design a different test protocol for communicating with the woman. It would be an amazing breakthrough for those suffering from the above mentioned syndrome.

What reminded me of this study, as related to the original topic, is that if they could tell this woman was “playing tennis” as directed in the scans, perhaps there are ways of zooming in on specific thoughts - a.k.a. mind reading - in a manner of speaking. I had thought the areas of the brain were so generalized (pleasure, pain, etc.) that results would not be very specific. But perhaps there are ways to direct the questions as to get more specific results, or to communicate, as suggested.

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