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CMU Working To Decode Brains & Read Your Thoughts

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - It seems like science fiction, or something out of the movies.

Being able to read someone's mind is happening for real, right here in Pittsburgh.

At Carengie Mellon University, they are decoding brains and reading thoughts.

"For the first time, we can get inside people's heads the way you've never been able to before," CMU's Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging Director Marcel Just said.

He is at the forefront of ground-breaking research.

"We have broken the brain's code for thought," Just said.

Reading minds is a complicated process. Willing subjects go into the MRI scanner and think about specific words.

Advanced computer programs analyze brain scans looking for patterns.

By doing this, Professor Just and his team made a major discovery.

"One of the most dramatic findings of our work, to first order, is that everybody's brain represents concepts the same way," Just said.

What exactly does that mean?

Researchers can read our minds because our brains light up in the same spot when we think about the same things.

"I'm sure your experience with apples is different than my experience with apples, but when you think of apples and I think of apples the same activation pattern, almost the same activation pattern occurs in our brains," Just said.

Researchers have also been able to decode emotions.

"I know how I feel anger, but I had no idea how you feel anger and yet your brain activation when you feel anger is just like mine. I find that incredible," Just said.

Researchers are now working on decoding full sentences. All of this work may someday lead to diagnosing psychiatric illnesses and better treatment. In education, it can be used to figure out why some students master a subject and others fail.

Right now, all of this work takes a massive MRI machine, time and money. In the future Porfessor Just sees a simpler way to read minds.

"Someday i will be able to point my smartphone at your head and see what you're thinking," Just said.

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