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Surprising Science

Machines Learning to Read Our Minds

Using computerized machine learning and complex algorithms, UCLA neuroscientists are making advances in 'brain reading' where computers can decode our brain to understand our thoughts.

What’s the Latest Development?

Scientists are teaching machines to decode our brain chemistry to better understand what a person is thinking from the outside. UCLA researchers presented cigarette smokers (nicotine addicts) with three visual stimuli: a video mean to induce a nicotine craving, a neutral video and no video at all. While the smokers watched, researchers measured brain function. With the help of machine learning, researchers were able to tell whether people were resisting their cravings while watching the video or indulging them.

What’s the Big Idea?

Neurons firing in one region of the brain known to control memory is not the same as having a memory of Christmas, for example, from our youth. But machine learning is increasingly able to bridge that gap, narrowing down what we may be thinking simply by analyzing the confluence of chemical reactions in our thinking organ. The technique could be used to create highly-effective lie detectors or, conversely, teach people how to control their thoughts by giving them real-time readings of their brain functions.

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