Thought Identification Experiments Show how the Brain Responds to Words
The Jan. 4 episode of CBS' "60 Minutes" featured a report by Lesley Stahl on "though identification" experiments at Carnegie Mellon. Stahl interviewed Tom Mitchell, chair of the Machine Learning Department, and Marcel Just, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, regarding their work to develop computer algorithms that can interpret brain scans produced by functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
"We believe we have identified a number of the basic building blocks that the brain uses to represent meaning," said Mitchell. In time, the building blocks could show how the brain represents concepts much more complex than simple nouns.
"We are fundamentally perceivers and actors," Just said. "So the brain represents the meaning of a concrete noun in areas of the brain associated with how people sense it or manipulate it. The meaning of an apple, for instance, is represented in brain areas responsible for tasting, for smelling, for chewing. An apple is what you do with it. Our work is a small but important step in breaking the brain's code."
For a video of the report, click here.