Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Brain Reading Reads "Brains" From A Reading Brain

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticAugust 14, 2013 1:56 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

A neat paper from Schoenmakers et al of the Dutch Donders Institute reports on Linear reconstruction of perceived images from human brain activity It introduces a new mathematical approach for decoding (or 'brain reading') the image that someone is looking at, pixel-by-pixel, based on the pattern of neural activity in their visual cortex. The results were not bad:


On the top row, you're looking at the actual letters shown to a volunteer during fMRI scanning. Beneath that, the estimated 'reconstructed' images, based purely on the corresponding brain activity. Here's where it gets crowd-pleasing and meta: in response to each of a certain six letters, the decoder estimated another output:


So you could say that we have a case of Brain Reading Reads "Brains" From A Reading Brain. Note, however, that in this case all of the stimuli were single letters in the set B,R,A,I,N,S, albeit written in a variety of fonts. So, although the decoder was attempting to reconstruct a raw image - not just pick one from a range of options as in many studies of this kind - it is perhaps no surprise that it always produced an output that had "lettery" features. The method (a linear Gaussian algorithm) seems novel, however, in that it's based on estimating the stimulus-response properties of each point (voxel) in the visual cortex. I get a feeling that it's less of a 'black box' than those other methods based on searching for whateverarrays of voxels happen to be associated with different stimuli.


Schoenmakers S, Barth M, Heskes T, & van Gerven MA (2013). Linear reconstruction of perceived images from human brain activity. NeuroImage PMID: 23886984

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In