Most of us have heard the old adage, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." In other words, keep your negative thoughts to yourself. But what if someone could read your thoughts?
A new technological breakthrough allows scientists to see what people are imagining; they can even decipher what number a person has just seen, what video the person has just watched, or what particular memory the person is recalling.
Imaging has become so sophisticated that researchers at Cornell University were able to deduce the mental picture of imaginary people that brain scan subjects were inventing in their heads. Neuroscientist Nathan Spreng said of the study, "We are trying to understand the physical mechanisms that allow us to have an inner world, and a part of that is how we represent other people in our mind."
Here's how the experiment went: Researchers gave 19 volunteers descriptions of four imaginary people, whose personalities had certain positive and negative attributes. The scientists gave names and genders to the imaginary people and asked those participating in the study to imagine how the fictitious people might behave in various situations. Then the scientists scanned each volunteer's brain, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which analyzed the blood flow to different parts. They discovered that the volunteers' thinking about each fake person yielded a different pattern of activity. Therefore, the researchers could determine which person the volunteers were thinking about each time, without the volunteers' saying a word.
Spreng said, "this is the first study to show that we can decode what people are imagining."
So while this scientific breakthrough allows scientists to read your thoughts, it's comforting to know that you would have to have your brain scanned in order for them to do so -- they're not just using telepathy.