An article appears this morning in Technology Review about fMRI (that’s functional magnetic resonance imaging whatever that may be) being used to determine the contents of short term memory stored in people’s brains.
Subjects were shown one of two pictures and then using the fMRI, researchers attempted to determine which one they had seen. They isolated the the region of brain used for visual memory and successfully determined which picture the subject was remembering in 80% of cases.
Impressive, amazing, but kind of frightening. I was relieved to read the final paragraph in the article:
No need to worry yet about Big Brother reading your mind. For now, real-world applications remain limited, says Frank Tong, an associate professor of psychology and senior author on the study. The ability to reconstruct from scratch a complex memory or imagined scenario is a long way off. “We’re still just discriminating a simple binary state,” Tong says. “If you increase the number of options, this would get progressively more difficult.”
However science has a habit of progressing exponentially, ao I’m sure they”ll have solutions for that as well.