Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cyborgs can't keep their thoughts to themselves (or, the machine-readable mind)

Decoding the visual and subjective contents of the human brain - Nature Neuroscience:

Yukiyasu Kamitani of ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kytoto, Japan, and Frank Tong of the Psychology Department at Princeton University conducted MRI scans of four adult humans as they obverved visual stimuli projected onto a screen. The MRI data was transformed into 3-dimensional image data (voxels, which are sort of like 3-d pixels). Then with a bunch of mathematical calculations, the researchers determined that they could analyse activity patterns in the visual cortex to reveal what "stimulus orientation a person is viewing," and they could also extract information about the person's subjective mental state. (moment of paranoia: This'll bring a whole new level of interrogation to police states, corporations, and otherwise blissfully ignorant marriage partners).

"The potential for human neuroimaging to read out the detailed contents of a person's mental state has yet to be fully explored. We investigated whether the perception of edge orientation, a fundamental visual feature, can be decoded from human brain activity measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Using statistical algorithms to classify brain states, we found that ensemble fMRI signals in early visual areas could reliably predict on individual trials which of eight stimulus orientations the subject was seeing. Moreover, when subjects had to attend to one of two overlapping orthogonal gratings, feature-based attention strongly biased ensemble activity toward the attended orientation. These results demonstrate that fMRI activity patterns in early visual areas, including primary visual cortex (V1), contain detailed orientation information that can reliably predict subjective perception. Our approach provides a framework for the readout of fine-tuned representations in the human brain and their subjective contents."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the pschoanalysis journals are also working with functional MRI analysis: if you get a chance to go to a medical library, sample some of this stuff: very weird.

wonder how virgina woolf would handle this stuff? if she would consider placing a verichip of her novel under her skin and file sharing it with other readers for shared experiences via bluetooth connectivity, and a shared sense of bent timing? Joyce as a prototypical cyborg documenting everything experienced by a man in one day.

the unanonymous and terrible dyslexic


7:38 PM  
Blogger Allison Muri said...

I can't quite imagine Woolf or Joyce ever wanting any foreign technology under their skins! They were so intent on portraying humanity through traditional publishing methods--and Woolf so overwrought by the fear of critics in the slow old way of printed reviews, how would she survive the instantaneous response via bluetooth of an insensitive turd intent on being noticed for his or her daily livejournal reviews of cyborg-stream-of-consciousness?

But imagine a future novelist sharing feelings, emotions, sensations, theories, meditations, karate kata, childhood memories, via wireless mindbody uploads. Now that would be something. The best novelists wouldn't be writers. They'd be the most evocative and colourful and sensorily rich daydreamers. In fact, I think I should write a novel about this.

10:30 PM  

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