Scientists Try to Predict Intentions

Maria Cheng at WTOP News:

Screenhunter_03_mar_06_0142In the past, scientists had been able to detect decisions about making physical movements before those movements appeared. But researchers at Berlin’s Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience claim they have now, for the first time, identified people’s decisions about how they would later do a high-level mental activity — in this case, adding versus subtracting.

While still in its initial stages, the techniques may eventually have wide-ranging implications for everything from criminal interrogations to airline security checks. And that alarms some ethicists who fear the technology could one day be abused by authorities, marketers, or employers.

Tanja Steinbach, a 21-year-old student in Leipzig who participated in the experiment, found it a bit spooky but wasn’t overly concerned about the civil liberties implications.

“It’s really weird,” she said. “But since I know they’re only able to do this if they have certain machines, I’m not worried that everybody else on the street can read my mind.”

Researchers have long used MRI machines to identify different types of brain activity, and scientists in the United States have recently developed brain scans designed for lie detection.

But outside experts say the work led by Dr. John-Dylan Haynes at the Bernstein Center is groundbreaking.

More here.