Scientists trial 'mind reading' computer
It may be a breakthrough for those whose speech has been affected by stroke or degenerative diseases, but the technology has also raised concerns about the potential to eavesdrop on people’s thoughts.
A recent trial of the technology saw researchers from the university test 15 people who were already undergoing brain surgery to treat epilepsy or brain tumors.
The patients each had 256 electrodes put on the surface of their temporal lobe, which processes speech and images, and then listened to men and women speaking individual words including object and place names.
A computer program analysed the brain activity and reproduced the word they had heard, or something very similar, at the first attempt.
Robert Knight, professor of psychology and neuroscience, said many could benefit from the technology in the future.
"This is huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig's [motor neurone] disease and can't speak," he was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.
"If you could eventually reconstruct imagined conversations from brain activity, thousands could benefit."
While the breakthrough may seem concerning to some, British neurological expert Professor Jan Schnupp from Oxford University has played down the potential for the technology to read unwilling subjects' thoughts.