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MRI images allow Dutch researchers to reconstruct brain's thoughts

Aug. 20, 2013 at 6:10 PM   |   Comments

NIJMEGEN, Netherlands, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Dutch scientists say MRI images combined with a mathematical model allowed them to "read" thoughts and determine which letter a test subject was looking at.

Researchers at Radboud University Nijmegen said it is now possible to reconstruct thoughts more accurately than ever before.

MRI scans have been used in cognition research to determine which brain areas are active while test subjects perform a specific task, but Radbourd researchers have gone a step further: they have used data from the scanner to determine exactly what a test subject is looking at, a university release reported Tuesday.

The researchers 'taught' a computer model to recognized how small volumes of regions in the brain scans -- known as voxels -- respond to individual pixels in human vision.

By combining all the information about the pixels from the voxels, they said, it became possible to reconstruct the image viewed by the subject.

The result was not a clear image, but a somewhat fuzzy speckle pattern, they said.

"After this we did something new," lead researcher Marcel van Gerven said "We gave the [computer] model prior knowledge: we taught it what letters look like. This improved the recognition of the letters enormously.

"The result was the actual letter, a true reconstruction."

The researchers said they would turn to a more powerful scanner for further studies.

"In our further research we will be working with a more powerful MRI scanner," researcher Sanne Schoenmakers said. "Due to the higher resolution of the scanner, we hope to be able to link the model to more detailed images.

"We are currently linking images of letters to 1200 voxels in the brain; with the more powerful scanner we will link images of faces to 15,000 voxels."

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