Imagine tapping into the mind of a coma patient, or watching one's own dream on YouTube. With a cutting-edge blend of brain imaging and computer simulation, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, are bringing these futuristic scenarios within reach. Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and computational models, UC Berkeley researchers have succeeded in decoding and reconstructing people's dynamic visual experiences – in this case, watching Hollywood movie trailers. As yet, the technology can only reconstruct movie clips people have already viewed. However, the breakthrough paves the way for reproducing the movies inside our heads that no one else sees, such as dreams and memories, according to researchers. “This is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery,” said Professor Jack Gallant, a UC Berkeley neuroscientist and coauthor of the study to be published online Sept. 22 in the journal Current Biology. “We are opening a window into the movies in our minds.”
PICTURE: This set of paired images provided by Shinji Nishimoto of the University of California, Berkeley on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011 shows original video images, upper row, and those images reconstructed by computer from brain scans. While volunteers watched movie clips, a scanner watched their brains. And from their brain activity, a computer made rough reconstructions of what they viewed. Scientists reported that result Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011 and speculated such an approach might be able to reveal dreams and hallucinations someday. In the future, it might help stroke victims or others who have no other way to communicate, said Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author of the paper.