Canadians invent infrared mind-reading ray

This is your brain, as seen by a Canadian
This is your brain, as seen by a Canadian

Watch out for those maple-leafed rucksacks, Canadians have mastered the ability to read minds.

Researchers at Canada's largest children's rehabilitation hospital have developed an infrared brain imaging system that can decode a person's preference for one of two drinks with 80 per cent accuracy.

In a study published this month in The Journal of Neural Engineering, Bloorview scientists reveal how a headband fitted with IR fibre-optics can pick up thoughts and preferences.

Beaming stuff into your brain

The headband emits light into the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, while the hapless subject is asked to make a mental choice between two alternatives - in this case, two drinks.

After teaching the computer to recognise the unique pattern of brain activity associated with preference for each subject, the researchers can accurately predict which drink the participants liked best 80 per cent of the time.

"This is the first system that decodes preference naturally from spontaneous thoughts," says Sheena Luu, the University of Toronto student in biomedical engineering who led the study.

Mine's more active when I'm eating cheese

"When your brain is active, the oxygen in your blood increases and, depending on the concentration, it absorbs more or less light," Luu says. "In some people, their brains are more active when they don't like something, and in some people they're more active when they do like something."

In the future, Luu envisions creating a portable, near-infrared sensor that rests on the forehead and relies on wireless technology, opening up the world of choice to children who can't speak or move.

That's all very well, although TechRadar envisions a future where Canadians rule the world with an iron fist, probing a terrified global population with brain scans to seek out and mind-wipe anyone who thinks a bad thought about the Winter Olympics.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.