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We Can Now Decode Thoughts in a Noninvasive Way

A new mind-reading technique uses functional magnetic resonance to track the flow of oxygenated blood through the brain.

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Mind-reading technology is still in its infancy, and existing techniques rely on the implantation of electrodes deep in peoples’ brains, which isn’t ideal. According to a recent Science Alert article, there is now a noninvasive method that works just as well and stands to change the way we explore human thought. The strategy employs a brain scanning technique called functional magnetic resonance, or fMRI. Active brain cells require more energy and oxygen, and fMRI tracks the flow of oxygenated blood through the brain. Thus, it can be used for an indirect measure of brain activity.

Because blood travels through the brain slower than electrical signals from brain cells, fMRI can’t capture real-time activity. However, the team behind the concept found that they could use it to decode the semantic meanings of people’s thoughts, though not provide word-for-word translations. The team behind the concept hope to develop the technology for use in brain-computer interfaces used by people who can’t speak or type.

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