Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: retrieving information from the brain ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: retrieving information from the brain
Category: Science > Technology
Asked by: mattman7-ga
List Price: $3.50
Posted: 03 Aug 2005 19:42 PDT
Expires: 02 Sep 2005 19:42 PDT
Question ID: 551485
I am looking for information that tells how far along we are on being
able to retrieve information from the brain.When will it be possible
to hook a computer to your brain and retrieve thoughts, ideas, and
pictures, and display them on a computer? Will it be possible to
rediscover thoughts, ideas, and images from my childhood that I seem
to have forgotten?
Subject: Re: retrieving information from the brain
Answered By: landog-ga on 03 Aug 2005 22:31 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Thanks for your interesting query.

One of the key elements to being capable of retrieving information
stored in the human brain is understanding how the brain actually
works, or mapping how the brain works.
IBM announced recently that they will be working with one of the
leading human intelligence researchers in the world to map how the
brain works. Results of this research will lead to breakthroughs in
medicine and technology.

"Once mapped, the supercomputer will be able to run simulations that
attempt to unlock secrets of how thought processes work at the
molecular level. Henry Markram, who will oversee the research, said it
will involve manipulating "hundreds of thousands of parameters" and
said that leveraging the power of the supercomputer could help the
research advance dramatically."

John J. Ratey, M.D, author of the book  'A User's Guide to the Brain:
Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain' commented
on how the brain's nerve cells involved with storing our memories act:

"We know the chemistry involved in this process and are beginning to
dissect the mechanics of how intensity neurotransmitters cause the
nerve cells involved with holding memory to become altered, readied
and strengthened. Every time a part of the emotional state connected
with that memory is stimulated, the memory returns along with the
intense emotional response. For example, in PTSD (post traumatic
stress disorder) a loud sound may trigger the memory of being shelled
in Viet Nam in a traumatized soldier which, as it is replayed, makes
the whole experience more vivid and ultimately readies it to be
recalled again and again. The same response occurs with joyful or
exciting memories"

What technology do we have to externally 'look' into the brain?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology
(  uses a
powerful magnetic field and maps out images of the brain and it's

Advances in the area of reading thoughts or Mind-reading using this
MRI technology have been reported in the media:
"fMRI is a giant cylindrical magnet, similar to the MRI machines
doctors use to diagnose tumors, but with the added ability to show
changes in brain activity as they happen?hence the "f," which stands
for "functional...The fMRI machine enables researchers in the emerging
field of neuroeconomics to investigate the interplay of fear, anger,
greed and altruism"

Primitive ?mind-reading? devices make progress:
"Without little fanfare, mind reading has left the pages of
science-fiction fantasy and begun tapping on reality?s door.
In new experiments, researchers say they have built devices that
decode, from brain scans, simple aspects of mental states.
The machines tell whether people are visualizing one or another of a
set of patterns they have viewed, the scientists say. In some cases
the devices know better what has passed through a person?s mind than
he or she does, according to researchers?offering a possible glimpse
into the unconscious...they employed a brain scanning technology
called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging..."

MRI is still a far step in being accurately able to read actual or
"real" thoughts and transcribe them into text or convert them into
images or even video or audio. But it is certainly a step in the right
Until science comes up with the technology to actually do this - we
can always fall back onto areas involving extra-sensory perception
(ESP), an area not regarded by scientists as an area for serious
factual science:
"Illusionist Derren Brown survived a televised game of Russian
Roulette, avoiding a bullet after claiming to have read the thoughts
of the person who loaded the gun. There are now claims the whole thing
was a hoax... but is there any scientific basis for mind-reading?"

"So you think mind reading is science fiction? Not entirely. Progress
is being made very quietly. Watching?"

Finally, despite the rumours, NASA's high ranking official, Robert
Pearce, stated that "Nasa does not have the capability to read minds,
nor are we suggesting that would be done..."

Request for Answer Clarification by mattman7-ga on 04 Aug 2005 00:03 PDT
This looks to be on the right track...I'll have more time to read it
tomorrow morning. I was thinking back to a discussion I had with a
friend about 4 years ago...That there would be some sort of device
that you could plug into your brain and hook up to your PC. Another
drive would appear on the desktop(which would be your brain) and you
could open it up and view the pictures or read any of the information
stored on it. My friend thought a difficult part of it would be
learning how to use the device in the first place. Imagine trying to
install drivers. Study for a test? Just type up what you need to know,
and copy it to the brain drive. Song stuck in your head? Just drag the
song into the trash and it won't bother you anymore.

From what you provided, it appears that it is still a long way to go,
maybe these long forgotten memories will still be there somewhere when
the technology arrives to refresh them.

Clarification of Answer by landog-ga on 04 Aug 2005 01:41 PDT
I have no doubt that the 'sci-fi' scenario you describe will surely
happen in the future. Will it occur in our lifetimes? I doubt it.
Maybe in a few 100's or 1000's of years.

Food for thought.
mattman7-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Thanks--Quite detailed.

Subject: Re: retrieving information from the brain
From: myoarin-ga on 04 Aug 2005 17:05 PDT
You might be interested in this discussion of this question:
Subject: Re: retrieving information from the brain
From: mattman7-ga on 04 Aug 2005 18:46 PDT
That certainly adds to the answer. I guess the brain must have a way
with compression, imagine looking across a grocery store, then looking
away. Certain things are sharp and vivid, while others may just look
like a shape of a certain color, while another has no detail at all.
We can recall a picture, but there are holes in the image, where the
picture may just be blurred.
Subject: Re: retrieving information from the brain
From: foudroyant-ga on 05 Dec 2005 11:23 PST
Some people actually predict the future for a living :

(google> ian pearson timeline)

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy