The latest issue of Nature will include an article detailing the fMRI work by Gallant and his team at the University of California Berkeley.
In the experiment, the brain activity of two subjects (two of Gallant’s team members, Kendrick Kay and Thomas Naselaris) was monitored while they were shown 1,750 different pictures. The team then selected 120 novel images that the subjects hadn’t seen before, and used the previous results to predict their brain responses. When the test subjects were shown one of the images, the team could match the actual brain response to their predictions to accurately pick out which of the pictures they had been shown. With one of the participants they were correct 72% of the time, and with the other 92% of the time; on chance alone they would have been right only 0.8% of the time.
Cool stuff. The researchers would like to eventually make a similar model for intentions. If they succeed there will be some pressing philosophical implications to address.
The study is catching a lot of press: