In the near future, advanced technology may allow scientists to eavesdrop on our internal monologues. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, are working on technology that could listen-in on individual internal monologues by analyzing the brain. The technology can tell what an individual has just heard. Scientists would potentially hear what people are thinking or imagining.
Thousands with speech impairment stand to benefit if scientists can reconstruct imagined conversations from brain activity. For instance, it is possible to tell what a number someone has just seen by a careful analysis of brain activity. The scientists have also carried out similar studies for sound, focused on decoding electrical activity within the temporal gyrus, or STG region of the brain. The European Parliament last year revised EU rules on the export of so-called dual-use technologies with an aim of restricting those that can be used to eavesdrop.
The scientists carried out tests on 15 volunteers undergoing neurosurgery for epilepsy or brain tumor. The researchers monitored how the brain responds to words in normal conversation by directly accessing the STG region of the brain via electrodes, as the volunteers heard them. Two techniques were used to match spoken sounds to the pattern of electrical activity detected. Through two computational methods, the scientists could predict each word based on electrode recordings. Last year, German officials admitted having used eavesdropping software in criminal investigations.