Redefining Mental Image

Would you call me crazy if I told you science could reproduce an image of a face you saw using only brain waves? Alan S. Cowen, a Yale undergraduate student pondered that very question with gob smacking results.

Six subjects were shown images of 300 “training faces” while having an MRI, creating a data base of brain wave responses to different faces. New faces were shown, fed into the data base – crude, yet remarkably accurate images appeared. Cowen anticipates this is only the beginning.

Graphic via Alan Cowen and Yale University.

Graphic via Alan Cowen and Yale University.

The implications make my head spin. As Marvin Chun – professor of psychology, cognitive science,  neurobiology and catalyst for his student Alan Cowen writes in Neuroimage – “It is a form of mind reading”


7 thoughts on “Redefining Mental Image

  1. To be honest, that does not surprise me at all — and I think we’ll find even more amazing analog to digital discoveries over time. I have to consider when I look at the big picture that part of the reason we have been successful at digitizing our world is because on some level we share that kind of function — it’s just that we don’t yet understand how our bodies fully function. (and by that I include things like clairvoyance and telekinesis and others that are still considered just hokum)

    That humankind can discover it is not of concern to me. What we will do with it IS of concern. Just yesterday or the day before one of my Facebook friends posted a link to a study predicting that over the next 30 years approximately 80% of the jobs as we know them will be automated — Pfffffft — Poof — GONE!

    We are smart enough to obsolete ourselves. Are we wise enough not to?

    I know you’re not a believer in God and this isn’t really a religious statement, but there’s an old testament verse about “by the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat they bread.” I have to ponder whether we were all better off when we weren’t quite so smart with quite so much free time. Of course the free time comes with our modern inventions; and all those genetic food modifications and labor saving devices. Cant’ seem to get one without the other.

    A friend of mine in England works at a company that makes high speed cameras. Somehow he tells me they can take 10k pictures in a second — freezing time. I can’t even comprehend that. My brain thinks about silver and light and developer and fixer — I haven’t even mentally grasped how my digital camera works — but it does. And his is a gazillion times faster. The world doesn’t need photographers any more. Soon we won’t need drivers anymore — our cars will drive themselves with anti collision protection. And instead we’ll all have time to hang out and use marijuana or the newest recreational drug but we won’t have a job to buy it with….

    To borrow from those two old fogeys of the black and white cinema: “another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.” I keep telling my brain that every day….


  2. This is indeed scary, next they will be using brain scans to learn what we are really thinking!
    But then that would be an asset to the community when considering politicians.

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