Thursday, September 22, 2011

Movies of my mind

Exactly 4 years and 4 months ago, I was writing about capturing dreams. I started by calling it a weird thought, but looks like it is no longer weird anymore given that bright minds have started to think alike and work in this direction. Today, we have neuroscientists from University of California, Berkeley working on this idea made  some initial progress. An initial progress that would very well become an important breakthrough one day.

Shinji Nishimoto and his team are working on a project that would attempt to reconstruct a video by scanning a person's brain while that person is watching a movie. From their results, they show the similarities between reconstructed images and the original movie clips the person is watching. The subjects are made to watch movie trailers, and fMRI technique is used to measure the brain's activity by keeping track of the flow of blood through visual cortex. The cool part is, they have used Youtube videos to reconstruct thoughts of the subjects they were experimenting with.

Out of my curiosity to learn about research related to dreams, or thoughts - anything to do with capturing cognitive capabilities in visual form - I have tried to understand the procedure further. A two step process this is, where in the first step scientific data related to brain's activity is captured when a subject watches a movie clip. In the second step, this scientific data is fed into the computer, and the computer based on experimental results tries to make a  movie by making a fusion of sample clips available from video pool (in this case Youtube). Lo and behold! We now have a output video with hazy shapes and blurry figures which are quite similar to what the subject was watching while brain's activity is captured.

According to the Professor Gallant who headed Shinji in this project, practical applications of such a project in the long term can be to communicate and understand what is running in the minds of people suffering from Cerebral Palsy, where the patients cannot communicate verbally (A few years ago I have written another post about the feelings of a person suffering from such a case, although I really don't know what runs through their mind). Who knows, this might altogether make the research of interacting and interfacing with human brain popular!

Atleast for now I can say, we are one tiny step closer in understanding how our human mind works. Here is a short video demonstrating the results of their experiment, watch it out for yourself:


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