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Generating Text From Functional Brain Images 82

Med-trump writes "Can you get a text output of your thoughts? Princeton scientists show that it is possible to generate text about the mental content reflected in brain images. The paper published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience describe the functional magnetic resonance imaging method used to identify areas of the brain activated when study participants thought about physical objects such as a carrot, a horse or a house."
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Generating Text From Functional Brain Images

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I using utilizing augmenting mentioned GIRLS this software SEX now currently forthwith LESBIAN ORGY. it limitation puncutation yoda HOT OIL WRESTLING pretty okay sound like yoda EROGENOUS ZONE.

  • Neuroposting on Slashdot. Mental.

  • by Compaqt ( 1758360 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @10:11PM (#37271420) Homepage

    and it's amazing how close we're getting to what futurists call "the Singularity".

    It's also amazing how a lot stuff from fiction (Terminator, Star Trek, Fringe) is coming true.

    Portable computer pads from Star Trek are one thing, but stark raving mad science experiments from Fringe are a total 'nother. New world.

  • by parallel_prankster ( 1455313 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @10:13PM (#37271432)
    Maybe this is the future of scanning? Stop people if they have any ideas of blowing the plane up in their head. Wonder what kinda privacy issues this will lead to, magneto's helmet anyone ?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Can the device tell the difference between someone who is intent on blowing up the plane and someone who is worried about the plane being blown up by someone else?

      I bet not.

      Not that this will stop anyone from trying, of course.

    • Well, you'd have to have a revolution in MRI technology in order to use it on any sort of mass scale. You'd have to lower the costs (current MRI machines of that caliber cost upwards of $1M) and make it much faster (older ones could take as long as 40 minutes, newer ones are still far too slow to compare in speed to metal detectors or backscatter machines).

      I'd think it would be a polygraph replacement before it becomes a crime scanner. If someone asks you "where are the bodies buried", the first thing you'r

      • by Jay L ( 74152 )

        Fast forward ten years...

        Gman003: "wow. They really did have a revolution in MRI technology, and they're using it to catch terrorists."
        MRI: Beep! Revolution! Terrorists!
        TSA: Sir, could you step out of the line, please?

    • Wonder what kinda privacy issues this will lead to, magneto's helmet anyone ?

      Tinfoil hats have been around for ages. We're ready.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )
      Honest. I was just sitting in my seat when the stewardess walked by. And the first thing that popped into my head was 'blow'. And then the TSA officers stormed the plane and dragged me and every other male passenger off.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Think back to Steve Bierfeldt of Campaign for Liberty and his been found with "cash" should give you some idea.
      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3394970594491846292 [google.com]
      Add in some "magnetic resonance" medical treatment at the airport before the "diesel therapy" van takes you down town for a long chat with the feds?
    • Thought crimes?? Better call the Thought Police.
    • Maybe this is the future of scanning? Stop people if they have any ideas of blowing the plane up in their head.

      No plane would ever fly again since the scan would result in 100% of passengers and the entire crew being stopped. I mean, how does one NOT think of blowing up the plane when they know their thoughts are being scanned to find out if they're thinking about blowing up the plane?

    • I wonder about the statistics about the amount of people dieing in a plane blown up by direct action of an individual boarding the plane (other as a distracted pilot) and other deaths (like carcrashes) and the efficiency of effort or measures plus the relation to the public perception of fear and risk.

    • by mldi ( 1598123 )

      Maybe this is the future of scanning? Stop people if they have any ideas of blowing the plane up in their head. Wonder what kinda privacy issues this will lead to, magneto's helmet anyone ?

      Think of any animal, but whatever you do, don't think of a giraffe.

      • I don't know about you but I can think about the word "giraffe" without visualizing a giraffe. i suspect similar would apply here (to play devil's advocate...)

        • by mldi ( 1598123 )

          I don't know about you but I can think about the word "giraffe" without visualizing a giraffe. i suspect similar would apply here (to play devil's advocate...)

          Michael Moore, nude and greased in butter. The vomit on your keyboard proves you wrong :D

    • This is ridiculous and won't work, here are some scenarios:
      - I am pretty sure I can suppress any thought while being scanned. Think deeply about sex and I am pretty sure no neural scanner will find something about my next task.
      - What if my thought are; hmm, this is a quite extensive system to figure out if I am potentially about to blow up a plane.
      - Sorry sir, you are up for extensive search because you looked at and thought the wrong things about my TSA chick co-worker.

      I am pretty sure the mental picture t

  • by Anonymous Coward

    money, bored, sex ,payday, bored, sex, sex, boobs, sex, hot, bored, sex, party, sex, boobs, anal, sex, porno, sex, fight, sex, money, beer, sex, beach, sex, vacation, sex, payday, sex,

    • I am so tired of this lie. It's gotten to the point of blatant sexism on men. Such hate on such lies
      • Seriously. He's only got beer in there once.

        • The funny thing is that when I read (scanned to be honest) the comment, I processed it as "sex and beer repetitively with some other thoughts mixed in".
          Your comment made me reread the comment only to realize I read what I wanted to read not what was forced upon me... (lotsa sex with one drink).
          So, I stand by the original poster that this is pretty much my thought pattern...

  • Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @10:35PM (#37271538)

    For me, reading the article immediately brought to mind the argument as to whether thought is a function of language, or whether language is a function of thought. I think that it's perhaps the latter, but that might only be true for abstract ideas (I don't know... I've never read any philosophy or studies on this, but I have pondered it in idle moments on occasion). Do thoughts rely on language at any point? Do the abstractions rely or draw upon language? And if so, are the thoughts of a non-English speaker "different", in some way, to the thoughts of an English speaker? (I'm just using English as an example -- don't read anything more into it than that). Perhaps egocentrism is something to think about as well. An example that comes to mind is the concept of time (see here [aclweb.org], here here [ucsd.edu], and also the Aymaran language [wikipedia.org]. I wonder how this "conversion" from thought/abstractions to language/description/communication really works.

    • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @11:14PM (#37271718)

      It's pretty complex and no one really agrees. However, I've studied quite a lot of philosophy and from what I remember (this subject came up but wasn't dealt with all that extensively) abstract thought does rely on language, as does logical (organized) thought to some degree. Time would be a decent example. Even without language, we would certainly have some concept of time because it isn't solely an abstract thing, but without language we wouldn't be able to think about it in the abstract or investigate many of its properties. For an example, try imagining space (empty space) without words. It's pretty hard.

      However, language is not necessary to thought itself. It is possible to create entire lines of reasoning without proceeding through the "voice in the brain" path, although this process is sometimes called intuition rather than thought (they are not the same). So for instance I might see in an instant that pushing a boulder off a cliff will block the approaching car and give me time to escape (for example), but the process happens so fast language doesn't even enter into it until I reflect on it later or need to talk to someone.

      Generally I think it is agreed that some concepts require words to be properly thought out, and that thought can be influenced by language (although that is another rather large debate), but thought itself doesn't require language. Take an abstract syllogism (i.e. every A is B, every B is C, therefore every A is C, aka a "Barbara" syllogism). Thinking of that (the formal syllogism without referring it to some real things) without words seems pretty nearly impossible (I believe it is). I can't even imagine how you would try. Of course it's still a pretty unanswered question how language and thought are exactly related.

      • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

        by JordanL ( 886154 ) <jordan@ledoux.gmail@com> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @11:31PM (#37271814) Homepage
        Another interesting aspect of the argument comes from experiential knowledge that people find difficult to think about or express in language. An example would be the experience some people have after emptiness meditation.

        Emptiness meditation involves stopping all conscious thought, as best you can. It could entail either shutting down the language centers of the brain, or shutting down the frontal cortex, I'm not sure, but after doing so what people often report is described as "understanding". A thought process that is outside of language, and in that way, outside of reality from the perspective of the subject. (This is why these experiences are often described as "transcendent").

        What I find interesting is that the process involves a method of thinking purely without language, but is described as "not thinking" or "stopping thought". So tied language is to our thoughts.

        One possibility I've heard before is that through essentially shutting down the frontal cortex, or at least having a different region of the brain "lead", the subconscious (not in the Freudian sense, but the non-thinking brain that is talked about in books like "The Power of Now" or "Blink") is allowed to both direct and utilize areas of the brain that it commonly does not. This experience could be perceived as either "true self", as some people report, or "conversation with God", as others do, as the process would be perceived differently depending on the person involved.
      • Do you not visualize when thinking and imagining things? Mental imagery is more basic to abstract thought than language. Imagining empty space without words is easy; finding the words to describe it is more difficult. Even your syllogism example, in my mind, immediately appears as a set of concentric circles: A in the center, B surrounding A, and C circumscribing both. That mental image to me seems to convey the truth of the syllogism far more directly than expressing it in words.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @11:23PM (#37271764)

      You're basically talking about Whorfianism AKA linguistic relativity [wikipedia.org]. Strong Whorfianism suggests that language has a deep restrictive influence on cognition (for example, speakers of a language which lacks temporal tense might have trouble understanding the flow and passage of time). Weak Whorfianism, on the other hand, suggests that the effects of language on thought are subtle, but not non-existent. Strong Whorfianism has essentially been discarded in modern linguistics, but weak Whorfianism is still the subject of research and interest.

      One interesting example of weak Whorfianism is color recognition. Speakers of languages with names for many colors are often more-easily able to distinguish between different colors than speakers of languages with fewer color names. For instance, English has "blue," while Russian has "" and "" (dark blue and light blue, respectively). The two Russian words for "blue" have no morphemes in common; they are completely different words for two different kinds of "blue." So there is no way to directly translate "blue" into Russian. I'm unsure if any studies on linguistic relativity have dealt with Russian and English speakers specifically, but if such a study yielded results similar to other studies, it would have revealed that Russians are better at distinguishing between shades of blue than English speakers.

      • by gr8dude ( 832945 )

        Slashdot didn't render those words, I think you refer to "goluboy" (light blue, looks like cyan but more blueish) and "sinii" (blue).

        > So there is no way to directly translate "blue" into Russian.
        Hmmm... How is "sinii" not suitable for this? Now, the fact that "goluboy" also maps to "blue" is a different problem; the constraint is not on the Russian end, but on the English one :-)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Are you azure about that? Not sure if we're cyan eye to eye on the subject. Lapis English speakers pretend you didn't say that, since you might be walking on eggshell. You probably don't want to worry about some aqua marine showing up at midnight either. Even if things didn't turn out violet, you could be a baby and teal over and go all turquoise or something.

    • We commonly communicate thoughts, at least on this forum, in words of language. So thinking about things posted in this forum is mostly verbal thinking. If we were instead for example listening to an instrumental number while dancing, we might be doing more in the way of nonverbal thinking.

      Verbal thinking uses a lot of the left side of the upper brain and might mostly utilize language function. Nonverbal thinking is not mostly a function of language.

    • I am no psychologist or biologist, but if viewed in terms of information theory and abstraction layers, the language layer is higher than the thought layer. Thought may be closer to the hardware (figuratively - literally I have no idea), but language provides a simpler, easier way to organize and express those thoughts. Without language, there would be less order, and the patterns we remember would be far more complex. For example, it is very difficult to communicate thoughts without language. Language is w

    • For me, reading the article immediately brought to mind the argument as to whether thought is a function of language, or whether language is a function of thought.

      It's the latter IMO. Couldn't someone who is born deaf have thoughts before he learns sign language? I guess he can. Do you need language (spoken, written or visual) to be able to imagine something, like what happens when you drop something and it hits the floor? No. You might argue that people can use images as some kind of 'language' when thinking. People who have been blind all their life can't do that. So people seem to think by using patterns from sensory inputs because they're so familiar and easy to

    • by PJ6 ( 1151747 )
      It may be different for different people, but I think in pictures, not words, and most of the time these pictures aren't visually expressible. Some concepts are practically impossible to communicate.

      Language can be terribly limiting, but only in how easily an idea can be passed from one person to another.
  • text to think? at least we got Linux interface covered
  • OMG!
  • by BlackSabbath ( 118110 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @11:21PM (#37271756)

    It's pretty cool boobs, when you can boobs just think of boobs anything and it gets boobs directly input boobs.
    I think I'll beer go have a beer lie down.

    Boobs for now.

  • by ygslash ( 893445 ) on Thursday September 01, 2011 @03:15AM (#37272724) Journal

    Although the authors do use the word "text" in the abstract, that is not what this study is about. They are not reading any characters or glyphs from the brain.

    They built a map of the way some relationships between concepts are represented in the brain. Then they were able to observe the activation of those brain structures and get some information about what the person was thinking.

    That is very cool, but it doesn't really have much to do with text.

    They did use both text and pictures as stimuli. I think the authors are emphasizing "text" in order to make it clear that they believe they are finding high-level semantic concepts in the brain, not just visual images.

  • Scary in a way...

    But scary in a whole bigger array when they get this perfected and can scan your brain from distance. If they got this perfected I'm sure law enforcement would love this... would they need a warrant? I'm not going to start a political war by naming individuals- but I can think of certain presidents who would allow this to go ahead without a warrant.

  • I know they use MRI already for helping with diagnosing patients in a vegetative state. However, I can see how this would be useful in really fleshing out exactly how unconscious the person is. (Oh, they're dreaming. Not vegetative.)


    /I am not a doctor. If that is the most uninformed statement ever, sorry. :)

  • "about physical objects such as a carrot, a horse or a house."

    What about a battery or staple, correct?

  • The interesting thing about this cutting-edge technology is that in many cases it is being tested on people who are not even aware that they are subjects of experimentation. And when they become aware, the subject will often complain and their statements can be matched to mental illness definitions so that psychiatric laws can be used to deprive them of their civil rights, helping to bring them even further under control. If you give a damn, check out http://www.google.com/search?q=%22targeted+individual [google.com]

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus