back to article World's first 'thought images' seen on screen

Asking 'shall we watch a film?' could soon be replaced by 'shall we watch a dream?' For the first time, researchers have successfully reproduced images on a PC screen that were captured inside a human brain. According to several online sources, Japan's ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories first showed a group of test …


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  1. Ed

    A Reg Headline 10 Years From Now....

    Women files for divorce after seeing husband dream about screwing sister......

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    nope sorry total junk

    all they did was match a stored image with a neural image.

    it wasn't an image if what the person was thinking, just the previously associated image.

    if for example the subject was shown a picture of jacqui smith and they were thinking about paris hilton at the time th scan was taken, then the next time the subject thought of paris up would pop jacqui's image

    / shudder

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Scary or Good?

    As I can see this being cool to see if anything is going for a person in a coma, why does this technology scare the hell out of me?

  4. Hywel Thomas

    Great for paranoid partners

    Paranoid partner records partner's brain activity, where they dream of shagging partners brother/sister/mother/father/best friend/woman from the checkout at Tescos/Nigella/Nigel/Angelina/Brad etc.

    Either get woken up violently, or get some serious evils over breakfast, eventually leading to all out war and divorce.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure it'll be misused by the advertisers

    ...but more interestingly, how long until someone figures out how to use transcranial magnetic stimulation (or some such) to reverse the process?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Monsters from the id (Forbidden Planet)

    I don't want to know what's going on in your head, thanks anyway.

    Privacy? Just wait 'till the govt. gets hold of this!

    I nominate this for "Scariest Technology Ever".

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    More like will use it to detect thought crime - wishes for democracy, disagreement with the party line and any thoughts of even a remotely sexual nature.

    God the world gets more depressing every day.

    V for Vendetta would never happen in this country, too many of the proles agree with the gov after swallowing the peeeeeedo hysteria pills

    now what was that clash song again? oh yeah "come come nuclear bomb"

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Oh Crap...

    The thought/dream police will love this one.

    What if I dream about upgrading my wife to a newer model!

    Would they tell her?

    What if I dream about a new form of energy!

    Will they exploit my "research"?

    What if I dream about wanting a non-surveillance society!

    Will they lock me up forever?

    What if I dream about MS Windows XP!

    Will they revoke my licences?

    What if I dream about government policies!

    Will they raid my house and keep me locked up all day?

    What if I dream about Britney Spears!

    Well at least that will never happen!!!

    Well the best thing to do is go to bed absolutley smashed every night

    Then they will only be able to see mashed up thoughts of CPU's, Ram, Screens & Ebay!!!

    OMG, if I were to think about the recent IWF Ban on wiki!!!

    I might go to jail for ever!

    Can someone press the "Electronic Thumb"

    As Ford said "We need a lift"

    or something like that

    I'll take my coat now please, no not the one with wires attached.

  9. Mike


    Must not look at the sexy HR secretary while operating brain image machine.

  10. Gary B

    "Who are the brain police?"

    Aahh ah ahahahaaa, aahh ah ahahahaaa

    What will you do if we let you go home,

    And the plastics all melted,

    And so is the chrome?

    Who are the brain police?

    - Frank Zappa, Mothers of Invention, album "Freak Out", 1966.

    (lyrics found at

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Taking apart Humpty Dumpty

    "Last night I dreamed of you and I put it on YouTube."

    "A penny for your thoughts!"

    "Here, have to whole recording."

  13. adnim

    @more like-AC

    Well if I was to delve into and see the thought processes of the average Londoner or any UK facebook dwelling, iPhone/iPod owning, Eastender/X factor/reality TV watching, girl/boy band appreciating, Daily Mail reading, form over function citizen..

    Then "London's burning with boredom now" comes to mind.

    Scary tech yes, I fear for my son and his potential/future children, I am a middle aged bloke. I will be dead before this technology is fully mastered, whence a "minority report" reality with adverts directly beamed into one's minds eye will be the new utopia/dystopia. The time of human individuality and freedom will truly be over.

  14. Dave
    Paris Hilton

    Good use / Bad use

    Good Use: Letting the immobile or disabled communicate easily (Think Stephen Hawking, and what he could do with this)

    Aversion therapy. Giving up smoking? Think Cigarette, See Jacqui Spliff naked on a trampoline

    Bad use:Pretty much everything else involving the government

    Though I'd like to thank AC above for giving me the thought about transcranial Magnetic stimulation. Combine that with pr0n of your choice and you never need leave the house again

  15. Anonymous Coward

    We Can Remember It For You Wholesale

    This can only lead to one of two things: the SQUID memory units from the film Strange Days ( or buying your holiday memories of Mars, as Ahnuld did in Total Recall (

  16. Dive Fox


    The only interesting dreams will be the ones with the last human, a being evolved from his cat, and a hologram of one of his dead crewmates performing a song-and-dance number.

    Mine's the one with the JMC logo on the back.

  17. E


    Obviously early days but it is a step in the direction of direct brain/computer interface. I want a direct brain/computer interface.

    As for the nay-sayers, I do get the point, but we could say the same things about other technologies: knives, nuclear fission techniques, and so on. We figured out how to use them mostly responsibly.

  18. J.R. Bloodsworth

    Whoa! Talk about 20 minutes into the future!

    Why don't they just use a camera with old analog film recording off the retina?

    My jacket is the one that Edison use to wear, thank you.

  19. Oliver Mayes

    Maybe it's just me,

    but generally I find my thoughts tend to be very hard to represent as just an image, they're generally more a mismash of, well, thoughts. I doubt any technology, no matter how advanced, could ever capture what I was thinking. Even if it could, it would be almost impossible to present the captured information in any meaningful way. Maybe reconstructing the image my eyes are seeing, but nothing more than that.

  20. Tom
    Thumb Up

    need a photographic memory?

    No problem, just put this chip in your head and it will record everything you see/hear ;)

    yes please!

  21. Paul McConkey
    Paris Hilton

    I for one

    welcome our Computational Neuroscience mind reading overlords.

    Paris - because she'd be able to read my mind!

  22. Kanhef

    Needs more testing

    This could just be associating patterns of neural activity with known shapes. To really be 'brain reading', there are two more tests they need to pass. First, they need to be able to correctly predict what neural activity a new shape/letter will produce. Second, when test subjects are shown an image *unknown to the researchers*, their scanner needs to accurately reproduce it.

  23. Andy Bright


    Are you sure they didn't just throw up images of random naked women and find to their amazement that this was precisely what their male test subjects were thinking about?

  24. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Smell the money

    From the vague article, this is my guess at what the experiment was like, but modified for use on Register readers:

    First wire up a Register reader. Have a computer show them the following pictures repeatedly in a random order: The Register logo, Tux, Apple's logo, Microsoft's Logo, an Intel Inside sticker and the Paris thumbnail. Wait until each image gives a consistent response. Get a second computer to display a guess of the image that the first computer is showing from the name of the Register reader and the electrode output.

    The next step is to vague up a description of the experiment until journalists will misinterpret it as reading images from inside brains. Use the resulting confusion to get investment from Jacqui Smith and all the other confused thought-police wannabes.

    For those of you who do not read Japanese, this will give you a clue about where I am coming from. The longest word for neuron that I found was shinkeisaibou, which is written 神経細胞 (if you have a kanji font installed). Each of the four letters has several meanings, and each letter is made of meaningful components.

    神 shin: gods; mind; soul. Left component: salute; bow; ceremony; thanks; remuneration. Right component: have the honor to; sign of the monkey; 3-5PM; ninth sign of Chinese zodiac.

    経 kei: sutra; longitude; pass thru; expire; warp. Left component: thread. Top right: or; again; furthermore; on the other hand. Bottom right: soil; earth; ground; Turkey.

    細 sai: dainty; get thin; taper; slender; narrow. Left component: thread. Right component: rice field.

    胞 hou: placenta; sac; sheath. Left component: moon. Right component:wrap; pack up; cover; conceal.

    These letters are going to cause different responses all over the brain unrelated to the shape of the letter just like the logos will cause a conditioned response in a prejudiced fanboy/Register reader.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's hope..

    That the NSBLP (National Socialist British Labour Party) will be out of power by the time this becomes viable. (Assuming GB doesn't make himself "Prime Feurer for life).

  26. CTG
    Black Helicopters

    Dream Police

    In this court of law

    This court of common pleas

    The crimes that you committed

    You claim were only a dream

    Ev'ryone has the same dreams

    On diff'rent days of the week

    We are the watchdogs of your mind

    We are the dream police

    David Byrne (Rei Momo, 1989)

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If I have a dream about participating in extreme porn, do I go to prison for recording it?



  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tinfoil hat?

    Just because you are paranoid, it doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

  29. Andy Worth

    Re:I'm sure it'll be misused by the advertisers

    This dream was brought to you by Lightspeed Briefs....

  30. Parax

    Imagined image or seen image?

    Captured from the visual cortex sounds as if it was recording live sight, rather than a vivid imagination. This has far more use both for recording vision (The Plods get thier own Black box without a headcam..) and also for artificial eyes feeding the cortex data...

  31. Jon Whiteoak
    Thumb Up

    @AC 11/12 19.27

    "now what was that clash song again? oh yeah "come come nuclear bomb"

    Think you'll find that was Morrisey - Everyday is like Sunday.

    Can't fault your taste though.

  32. Marvin the Martian

    What complete bollocks

    Obviously when I think about food, I see the letters spelled out one by one. F-O-O-D, B-E-E-R, M-M-H-M. Sometimes I see them in Times, sometimes Helvetica but never (god forbid) in Comic Sans. If it's scarily bad in it's in gothic letters.

    You also have the rorschach-test guy who sees beautiful women in every given picture, as that's what he always thinks about.


    What I'm trying to point out is, you will indeed be able probably to show the intensity of a few thousand parameters at any single time, but there is no 1-to-1 mapping to what it means.

    If they followed the last 50years of genetic research vaguely, they'd know that with DNA you have the same mapping problem (as understood for about 20 years, right about when Dawkins started lying and claiming the opposite).

  33. Eddie Edwards
    Thumb Down


    This is a stupid experiment for those that believe our visual experience comes down to us having a "TV in our head" which our souls watch.

    Nice theory, unfortunately disproven by every optical illusion there is.

  34. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    Did they discern what the subject THOUGHT or what they SAW?

    The optical cortex is on the surface atthe back of the brain and functional MRI scans have been able to distinguish whether the subject is being shown a vertical or horizontal line for a few years now. This sounds similar, rather than a true "thought reading" process.

  35. Gareth
    Thumb Down

    Entirely Subjective

    Take person x's brain wave pattern when looking and thinking of the letter N.

    Basically if a = b within reasonable parameters display the image n back to person x.

    However, if we then take person y and get them to think of the letter N when viewing then same image, person y's brain wave pattern a = b? I seriously doubt it!

    Less as useful and reliable than speech recognition.

    Hmm lets just sit here and train the computer to recognise ure brain wave patterns for everything you think of!


  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This was in an old G.I. Joe comic, but it's application in the comic made more sense if certain time constraints held.

    The problem with this, is that the pattern the brain produces for a particular item will change over time. Asking someone to think of a car and then comparing that to the same image down the road will result in different images.

  37. The Fuzzy Wotnot
    Thumb Up

    Come one you know the answer!

    What do all the blokes say when the missus/GF says "What are you thinking about?", we all say...."Oh nothing." You know what? 99.9% of the time that's true! Sorry ladies, the most intelligent we normally get is wondering how that top heavy lady we saw on the bus this morning, manages to sleep face down?

  38. ShaggyDoggy

    Roll on


  39. Luther Blissett

    What took them so long?

    I recall seeing a TV program, it must have been at least 20 years ago, in which electrodes inserted into a cat's brain were shown being triggered by straight lines in the cat's visual field. I've never forgotten that cat - it was sitting up, staring blankly ahead at a whiteboard, motionless, unblinking, (unyawning), like an Egptian mummy guardian wotsit. The neuroscience was par for the course, but the cat's catatonia was truly awesome.

    I don't think the spooks will be investing in the neuroscience any time soon.

  40. Mike Bronze badge

    old news...

    they've been able to read thoughts for a while, i recall seeing a TV program where thought was used to control a robotic arm (badly admittedly) years ago

    while the use in the article is slightly different, the general principle is the same but this is actually a much better use of the technology, to assist paralysed people/artificial libs/etc

    and once we've dealt with all the cripples we can then turn our attention to the really important part - controlling a computer through thought, think how quickly you could type if you didn't have to move your fingers and press keys! and the increased working speed might mean it stops being considered acceptable for so-called programmers to release the sort of bloatware crap that most software is these days

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