Brain Scans Can Now Reveal Who You're Thinking About

Illustration for article titled Brain Scans Can Now Reveal Who You're Thinking About

For the first time, scientists have been able to use data from brain scans to identify who patients are thinking about.

Researchers from Cornell University have been analyzing data from functional MRI scans in an attempt to reconstruct what memories people are recalling. But now they've gone a step further, by trying to deduce the mental picture of an individual in a person's head from just their brain activity, reports Scientific American. Nathan Spreng, the researcher behind the project, explains:

"We are trying to understand the physical mechanisms that allow us to have an inner world, and a part of that is how we represent other people in our mind."


So he and his team gave 19 volunteers descriptions of four imaginary people, each with different personalities and traits. Then their brains were scanned using fMRI, while they were asked how these individuals might behave in social situations.

Turned out that each of the four individuals triggered unique patterns of brain activity in the medial prefrontal cortex—effectively demonstrating for the frist time that it's possible to decode from brain activity who people are thinking about. Speng explains again:

"The scope of this is incredible when you think of all the people you meet over the course of your life and are able to remember. Each one probably has its own unique representation in the brain This representation can be modified as we share experiences and learn more about each other, and plays into how we imagine future events with others unfolding."

It really is an amazing finding. Just be careful who you think about next time you're in a hospital. [Cerebral Cortex via Scientific American]

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This is 3rd party sensationalized crap at best. An fMRI works by identifying areas of blood flow in the brain. If blood is flowing in specific localized areas, then it suggests unique brain activity. Knowing this, if you look at the abstract of the article, they simply state that different areas of the brain are active for specific protagonists in the made-up story. HOWEVER, that's not even the purpose of the study! The purpose is to explore how the brain constructs a "personality model," which serves to predict the behavior of others. I mean, you guys are like, "ZZOMMGGG!! there are ways that by walking into a hospital, they can tell who you are thinking about!!!!!!" In reality, it makes sense that there would be specific and different neurons firing within the prefrontal cortex that represent different characters or different people. Get real, Gizmodo. Get real. Sensationalized. Crap. (Hey, at least you provided us a link to the original article).