Reading Mind No Longer Science Fiction

Govind Bhattacharjee


On 30 March 2020, newspapers and science journals across the world reported an event that got eclipsed by the coronavirus scare the world is reeling from. Dr Joseph Makin and colleagues from the University of California, San Francisco, reported in Nature that they had actually translated the thoughts active in the brains of four women into real words, bringing mind-reading a step closer to reality (Joseph G. Makin, David A. Moses & Edward F. Chang, “Machine translation of cortical activity to text with an encoder-decoder framework”, Nature Neuroscience, volume 23, 575–582, 2020). The women, all epilepsy patients, had arrays of some 250 electrodes implanted in their brains for monitoring epileptic seizures, including some planted in the auditory cortex of the brain known as the Broca’s and the Wernicke’s areas; these are respectively associated with the production of speech and its more