Scientists want "to read minds"

U.S. scientists said researchers may soon be able to use brain-scanning instruments to read someone's mind.

The brain is the site of reason and intelligence, which include such components as cognition, perception, attention, memory and emotion. The brain is also responsible for control of posture and movements. It makes possible cognitive, motor and other forms of learning.

The brain can perform a variety of functions automatically, without the need for conscious awareness, such as coordination of sensory systems, walking, and homeostatic body functions such as blood pressure, fluid balance, and body temperature.

Dr. Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist at the University of California in Berkeley, said his team has figured out how to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to tell what someone is looking at based on brain activity.

A report, published online in the journal Nature, said it is the first step to being able to see the contents of someone's visual experiences.

"When the deck of cards, or photographs, has about 120 images, we can do better than 90 percent correct," Gallant said.

He said the next step is to interpret what someone is seeing without having the subject select from known images.

The research team said a device that can read out the brain's activity could be used to assess damage from strokes, the effect of drug treatments or to help diagnose conditions such as dementia.

Dementia (from Latin de- "apart, away" + mens (genitive mentis) "mind") is the progressive decline in cognitive function due to damage or disease in the brain beyond what might be expected from normal aging.

In dementia, affected areas in cognition may be memory, attention, language, and problem solving. Higher mental functions are affected first in the process. Especially in the later stages of the condition, affected persons may be disoriented in time (not knowing what day of the week, day of the month, month, or even what year it is), in place (not knowing where they are), and in person (not knowing who they are).