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One Day Scientists Could Read Your Mind

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For someone who has suffered a stroke, there is probably nothing so devastating as the inability to speak. However, scientists may have found the ability to literally "spy" on people's thoughts–giving stroke sufferers that have lost the chance to communicate the ability to "speak" once again.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley described in a recent journal article how they discovered a way to monitor brain waves in order to reconstruct the words a person hears in normal conversation. By "decoding" the electrical activity in the part of the brain responsible for the auditory system (superior temporal gyrus), scientists believe that they will one day be able to hear the imagined language of stroke or Lou Gehrig's disease patients, for example.

For the study, researchers tested two different computer models that were designed to match the spoken sounds to the pattern of activity in the brain when a person hears a particular word. One of the models provided a sound close enough to the word that an individual was thinking of that researchers were able to guess the word. The primary goal of the research was to reveal how humans encode speech in the brain and to pinpoint what aspects of speech are necessary for understanding.

This research builds upon previous work conducted with ferrets at the University of Maryland where researchers were able to guess which words the ferrets were read, although the ferrets were unable to understand the words.