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Inside Your Mind, Scientist Can Eavesdrop on What You Hear

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Inside Your Mind, Scientist Can Eavesdrop on What You Hear

Post  Admin on Wed Feb 01, 2012 3:18 pm

By analyzing the brain, scientists can tell what words a person has just heard, research now reveals.

Such work could one day allow scientists to eavesdrop on the internal monologues that run through our minds, or hear the imagined speech of those unable to speak.

"This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig's disease and can't speak," said researcher Robert Knight at the University of California at Berkeley. "If you could eventually reconstruct imagined conversations from brain activity, thousands of people could benefit."

Recent studies have shown that scientists could tell what number a person has just seen by carefully analyzing brain activity. They similarly could figure out how many dots a person was presented with.

To see if they could do the same for sound, researchers focused on decoding electrical activity in a region of the human auditory system called the superior temporal gyrus, or STG. The 15 volunteers in the study were patients undergoing neurosurgery for epilepsy or brain tumor — as such, researchers could directly access the STG with electrodes and see how it responded to words in normal conversation that volunteers listened to.

The scientists tested two different methods to match spoken sounds to the pattern of electrical activity they detected. The volunteers had recorded words played to them and the researchers used two different computational models to predict each word based on electrode recordings.


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