Researchers successfully detect when someone is thinking about numbers, the first step to reading minds

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Are we getting closer to a world in George Orwell’s 1984?  A world where thought police are able to know our every thought?  Not quite yet thankfully, but researchers at Stanford University are taking further steps towards understanding how the brain works.

Research published in Nature, which is a weekly and international scientific journal, indicates that through their experiments, researchers were able to tell when a person was thinking about numbers.

The experiment they performed involved three volunteers who have severe epilepsy.  They had parts of their skull removed so that electrodes could be put right onto the brain.  The technique is called an electrocorticography, or ECoG, and according to The Verge it allows for very detailed measurements to be taken.

The researchers used the ECoG to study the intraparietal  sulcus, or IPS, which is the part of the brain in which thoughts about anything concerning numbers are processed.  The research team asked the volunteers a number of questions, and noticed that whenever the question was related to numbers there would be activity in the IPS.

The researchers also let the volunteers interact with other people, friends and family members, in a casual setting, and continued to monitor their brain activity.  Again, whenever the subject of numbers came up or the subject was in a situation where they had to think about them, activity in the IPS could be seen.

Josef Parvizi, the paper’s senior author, told Time that, “you are able to see how neurons within the human brain are working in a real life setting.”

The researchers hope this study will lend itself to help create an accurate map of the brain and eventually learn how to translate thoughts into commands that can be enacted by machinery.

[via The Verge, image via Nature]

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