March 13, 2009 -- Researchers report success in a first attempt at mind reading -- at least, in hindsight.
In a new study, four healthy young men in England played a video game that challenged them to move their on-screen character from one spot to another as quickly as possible. While they played, they got functional MRI brain scans that focused on a brain area called the hippocampus.
Afterward, the scientists used a computer program that they had written to analyze the brain scans. They found patterns of brain cell activity in the hippocampus that revealed where the players had moved their on-screen characters.
"In other words, we could 'read' their spatial memories," professor Eleanor Maguire, PhD, of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London says in a news release.
That's a long way from being able to decipher complicated thoughts in real time. But "with this study, we are approaching the realm of mind reading," Maguire says.
Maguire also says that learning more about how the brain handles memories may help with research on Alzheimer's disease.
The study appears online in Current Biology.