Friday, September 23, 2011

Scientists Reconstruct Brains’ Visions Into Digital Video In Historic Experiment

(Gizmodo) UC Berkeley scientists have developed a system to capture visual activity in human brains and reconstruct it as digital video clips. Eventually, this process will allow you to record and reconstruct your own dreams on a computer screen.

I just can't believe this is happening for real, but according to Professor Jack Gallant—UC Berkeley neuroscientist and coauthor of the research published today in the journal Current Biology—"this is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery. We are opening a window into the movies in our minds."

Indeed, it's mindblowing. I'm simultaneously excited and terrified. This is how it works:

They used three different subjects for the experiments—incidentally, they were part of the research team because it requires to be inside a functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging system for hours at a time. They were exposed to two different groups of Hollywood movie trailers as the fMRI system recorded the brain's blood flow through their brains' visual cortex.

The readings were fed into a computer program in which they were divided into three-dimensional pixels units called voxels (volumetric pixels). This process effectively decodes the brain signals generated by moving pictures, connecting the shape and motion information from the movies to specific brain actions. As the sessions progressed, the computer kept learning about how the visual activity presented on the screen corresponded to the brain activity.

After recording this information, another group of clips was used to reconstruct the videos shown to the subjects. The computer analyzed 18 million seconds of random YouTube video, building a database of potential brain activity for each clip. From all these videos, the software picked the one hundred clips that caused a brain activity more similar to the ones the subject watched, combining them into one final movie. Although the resulting movie is low resolution and blurry, it clearly matched the actual clips watched by the subjects....

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