Carnegie Mellon University
November 21, 2019

60 Minutes highlights advances in CMU brain science research

By Stacy Kish

Ten years ago, Lesley Stahl, a correspondent with the CBS program “60 Minutes,” interviewed Carnegie Mellon University’s Marcel Just and Tom Mitchell about the use of brain imaging and machine learning to identify thoughts — based on brain activation patterns or neural signatures. During the program, the researchers showed how functional MRI could be used to identify the thought of a physical object, like a screwdriver, from a person’s brain scans. View the 2009 segment online with “60 Minutes Rewind.”

As the decade draws to a close, Stahl returns to CMU’s campus for an update. Just, the D.O. Hebb University Professor of Psychology at the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and his colleagues can now apply their research method to see brain activation patterns for scientific concepts. “It’s like being an astronomer when the first telescope is discovered,” said Just.  His work is shining light on how abstract concepts, including emotions like “jealousy” and “faith,” form in the brain. His latest work focuses on detecting whether or not a person has been thinking about suicide.

WATCH SUNDAY’S PROGRAM ON THE “60 MINUTES” website