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This Software Can Decode Human Thoughts

Since time immemorial, mankind has wanted to read others’ thoughts. Will this ever be achieved by new technology? A team of researchers believes a computer program might be the answer to decode human thoughts. The findings are published in PLOS Computational Biology.


Decoding the thoughts of humans using a new computer program – new research says it is quite possible to do so almost in real time. This ‘decryption’ is based on using electrical signals flowing from electrode-implants in the brain to determine what is being seen by the individual only some milliseconds after he saw the image.

Neuroscientist Rajesh Rao from the University of Washington, Seattle, and his team enlisted the participation of 7 severe epilepsy patients who had previously had surgery to have electrodes implanted into their temporal lobes – the brain area associated with sensory input like seeing and identifying objects – for diagnosis purposes. For the experiment, the electrodes were connected to a computer program that is meant to examine brain signals 1,000 times per second.

The volunteers had to watch various images on a computer screen to spot that of an upside-down house. As this happened, the software would analyse brain signals as the images would be changed. This is how the program determined what the brain signals looked like when the person was looking at an image of a house.

Thereafter, the computer was found to successfully forecast (with 96% accuracy) the rest of the pictures within milliseconds.

This was because the viewing of different images would entail different neurones being involved. The computer would use two forms of brain signals to do the decoding. The scientists were thus able to identify the parts of the brain responding to certain stimuli in real time.

This technology is hoped to assist patients with troubles of communication (because of disabilities or heart stroke and related conditions) to express their thoughts.


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