‘The potential is there’: California brain surgeon says mind reading could be possible
Providing vision to the blind and hearing to the deaf could become possible with a breakthrough, AI-powered surgical procedure that could even make “mind reading” a reality, a California neuroscientist told Fox News.
Ann Johnson, a Canadian teacher who lost her ability to talk after a stroke left her paralyzed in 2005, was able to speak through a cloned version of her voice after undergoing a surgery that connected her brain to artificial intelligence. The procedure involved fixing over 250 electrodes to Johnson’s brain and connecting those to an array of computers through a port on the back of her head. Those, in turn, translated her brain activity into English using an AI-generated avatar that spoke on her behalf.
“We’re far from mind reading itself, but the potential is there,” he continued.
Chang led a team of scientists from his college and the University of California, Berkeley, which published a study last week demonstrating how to translate electronic brain signals into spoken language and facial expressions.
“We could be at a point where similar and related technologies will allow us to, quote-unquote, read the mind,” Chang said. The study brings researchers “one step closer to understanding how these kind of technologies are allowing us to read and interpret signals of the brain and mind.”
Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin published research in May that also supports the possibility of translating brain activity into language. The Texas team measured participants’ brain activity while listening to podcasts in a functional MRI scanner.
That data was fed to a computer, effectively teaching it how to interpret brain activity as streams of words. Then the participants listened to new stories in the scanner.
“Even five to 10 years ago, we didn’t have the right AI tools in order to decipher the brain activity and translate it into words,” Chang told Fox News. The process of measuring “over tens of thousands of neurons” and translating that into English is “very complex.”
“That’s why AI has been so critical to our approach because it’s been very, very powerful to take those very subtle signals and translate them to things that are useful like words,” he continued.
Johnson’s ability to communicate improved drastically while using the AI avatar, according to the University of California study. She went from being able to communicate roughly 15 words a minute to nearly 80, according to Chang. Normal conversation speed is about 160 words per minute.