Fantasising about an old flame? Lusting over a celebrity instead of your current squeeze? Watch out: scientists can reconstruct the faces you're thinking about from a brain scan alone.
Researchers from Yale have been using functional MRI scans to reconstruct the images of people's face from subjects that are thinking about a particular person. Showing six subjects 300 different faces and then performing brain scans, Alan S. Cowen and Brice Kuhl were able to teach software to use statistical reasoning to associate brain signals with facial features.
Then, they showed the six subjects new sets of faces, and scanned their brains while they thought about them. Using the fMRI data alone, the researchers were able to use their software to reconstruct the faces the subjects were thinking about. The results of a couple of the experiments are shown above.
They're not perfect, but then, it's worth remembering that this is quite literally mind reading. Cowen also believes that the accuracy will improve dramatically simply by building the database so that the statistical techniques are more accurate.
It's all possible because of the way in which our brain works. "We perceive faces in a much greater level of detail than we perceive other things," Cowen explains, which means that it's easier to reconstruct a face than, say, a landscape we've looked at.
That doesn't take away from how impressive the work is, though. So, be careful next time you're in hospital and you end up thinking about your ex; someone could be watching you thoughts. [Yale]