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Scientist Develop Accurate “Brain-Reading” Method

July 31st 2009

Scientists have developed an accurate method of examining the brain and unveiling a person’s mental state through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
By Alfi Fernandez

Scientists have developed an accurate method of examining the brain and unveiling a person’s mental state through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), according to a new study published in the October issue of Psychological Science.

The findings by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles and Rutgers University will help determine what kind of information is processed before it reaches a person’s awareness. Study results will also allow scientists to more accurately examine the inner workings of the brain.

“What our research shows is that if you want to understand human cognitive function, you need to look at system-wide behavior across the entire brain,” said Stephen José Hanson, professor of psychology at Rutgers University and lead author of the study, according to ScieneDaily. “You can’t do it by looking at single cells or areas. You need to look at many areas of the brain to even understand the simplest of functions.”

The study examined 160 people who performed various mental tasks—reading, memorizing and making complex decisions, for example—while being scanned using fMRI. The researchers were able to identify what kind of objects a person was viewing before they could report that information by analyzing patterns of brain activity. They also were able to determine which types of tasks the participants were involved in with 80 percent accuracy by examining fMRI data and comparing it against fMRI data of other people.