Brain Movies: Scanning the Visual Cortex

18 11 2011

Imagine if you could watch your dreams and the images inside your head like a movie… seems impossible right?

But recently, with a cutting-edge blend of brain imaging and computer simulation, scientists at the University of California-Berkeley, have gotten closer to this impossible idea.

Using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) (brain scans) and a computer, UC Berkeley researchers reconstructed people’s visual experiences. Their computer program recreated an image from inside someone’s mind.

So far, the technology can only reconstruct movie clips people have already viewed. However, the breakthrough is the first step towards reproducing the movies inside our heads that no one else sees, such as dreams and memories. It’s like opening a window into the movies in our minds.

Eventually, the technology could help to understand what goes on inside the minds of people who cannot communicate verbally, such as stroke victims, coma patients or other people with neurodegenerative diseases (loss of brain functions).

In the experiment, they watched two separate sets of Hollywood movie trailers, while fMRI was used to measure blood flow through the visual cortex (the part of the brain that processes visual information). The brain activity was recorded by a computer program that learned to associate visual patterns in the movie with the corresponding brain activity. The computer program then produced a blurry reconstruction of what was seen inside the brain.

Check out the image that was seen (on the left) and the blurry reconstructed image from the computer program (on the right). It looks like a painting, pretty amazing right?

If you find the brain as fascinating as we do, then check out this website: The Secret Life of the Brain they show all the techniques used to look inside the brain, such as the fMRI we mentioned above.

What would your brain movies look like? Would your movie show an action sequence or a cartoon, or something never seen before? Tell us what your brain thinks.