Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a way to extract visual stimuli from brain signals. A new computational model was created that uses functional MRI (fMRI) data to see what’s going on in an individual’s visual cortex – the part of their brain that processes visual stimuli.
So far, fMRI studies have only been able to decode basic information from the brain, using simple images in distinct categories such as faces or houses.
Now, the scientists claim they can identify exactly what image a person is looking at. The team showed over a thousand photographs to a group of people, using fMRI to measure their visual cortex activity and “train” their decoder. Then, the subjects were shown random images from a set of 100 previously unseen photos. The researchers were able to accurately predict which photograph the subjects were looking at.
“Our results suggest that it may soon be possible to reconstruct a picture of a person’s visual experience from measurements of brain activity alone,” said the study’s co-author Kendrick Kay.
The team’s findings could lead to a multitude of applications. An accurate way to tell what people were looking at in a certain moment in time could be the ultimate truth detector. Scientists could also possibly look into people’s dreams, seeing exactly what they see. It will be interesting to see what this new fMRI technology holds in the future.
[Published in Nature]