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Mind Movies

October 5, 2011

A computer algorithm partially reconstructs movies from patterns of brain activity in people watching them.



Mind movies…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

YouTube has made it possible for millions of people to upload and watch videos on the web. But the website is also helping unravel how the brain processes what we see. A team led by Berkeley neuroscientists Shinji Nishimoto and Jack Gallant scanned the brains of volunteers as they viewed Hollywood movie trailers. They used this MRI data to create a computer model mapping shape and motion information from the movies to the volunteers’ brain activity. Then they showed a second set of movie clips. With the computer model, they visually reconstructed what the volunteers saw using a huge repository of YouTube videos. Gallant explains.


You can think of these YouTube clips as a sort of palette of paints that we can select from and we essentially combine clips to paint the best picture we can.


He says the technique could one day help patients with locked-in syndrome communicate with doctors and loved ones. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

The research appears in Current Biology.

Story by Susanne Bard