What are you thinking right now? Whatever it is then it would perhaps be advisable to stop because neuroscientists may be on the verge of penetrating the depths of the mind; to the point where reading thoughts becomes possible. Obviously the moral and ethical implications of this are potentially very wide-ranging.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fRMI) is a technique used to 'map' the brain. A subject lies in a magnet and a particular form of stimulation will be set up; then, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) images of the subject's brain are taken. Two scans are taken; firstly, a high resolution single scan is taken which is used later as a background for highlighting the brain areas which were activated by the stimulus. Next, a series of low resolution scans are taken over time. For some of these scans, the stimulus will be presented, and for some of the scans, the stimulus will be absent. The low resolution brain images in the two cases can be compared, to see which parts of the brain were activated by the stimulus.
However, recently things have been able to be taken a little further. They have been able to discern which of two images you saw and furthermore whether you are thinking of a face, animal or scene. Basic predictions, about which finger you will next move can also be made. Of course, the race is now on to push the boundaries way beyond identifying current thoughts into predicting future behavior and ascertaining the core of why we act in the way we do.
John-Dylan Haynes, a researcher at Germany's Bernstein Centre for Computational Neuroscience, is one those driving the research forward. The mission statement of his project is to investigate “ways to decode and predict a person’s thoughts based from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data”.