Tom Mitchell, head of Carnegie Mellon University's Machine Learning Department, says that advances in machine learning could bring about a transformation in psychology and neuroscience. Mitchell says that his group has trained an algorithm to study functional magnetic resonance imaging scans of a person's brain activity and determine what object they are thinking about.
"We can look inside your brain when you see the color red, and we can look inside my brain when I see the color red, and we can ask, 'Is it or is it not the same pattern of neural activity?' " he notes.
Mitchell speculates that people could conceivably be networked to exchange information so that one person can tell what the other is thinking. He observes that a number of researchers are developing brain-computer interfaces that can enable the decoding of a person's thoughts. This could be particularly useful for "locked in" patients who are speech- and mobility-disabled.
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