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What is the Brain-Machine Interface
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The world's first commercial brain scan for the purpose of recording thoughts and memories for future playback is to take place in the United States.
Millennium Magnetic Technologies (MMT) is the first company to commercialise the recording of resting state magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, offering clients real-time recording which correlates with thoughts and emotions.
Following the recording, the Connecticut-based neurotechnology startup will store the thoughts with the hope of reinterpreting the data gathered in the future - either on a screen or in the mind itself through electrical impulses sent to the brain.
'It's essentially mind reading'
Dr Donald Marks, founder and chief science officer of MMT, has previously offered his patented Cognitive Engram technology to detect Preclinical Alzheimer's - 18 to 24 months before symptoms presented themselves.
Following subsequent advances in the field of neurotechnology, Marks realised that by using the same technique it would be possible to record brain activity patterns and correlate them to thoughts and emotions for future interpretation.
"Some people call it 'thought identification' but it's essentially mind reading," Marks told IBTimes UK.
Initially intended for Preclinical Alzheimer's patients and other people wanting to preserve memories that they are worried might fade, the service has attracted the attention of other customers interested in the potential of this nascent technology.
The inaugural patient to undergo the scan is software developer Anthony Broussard from Houston, Texas. Broussard hopes to be able to relive specific emotions in the future, like "the feeling of motivation or excitement", rather than just relive memories.
"I've always been a big fan of sci-fi and futuristic stuff and I think it's pretty amazing where technology has come," Broussard told IBTimes UK ahead of today's procedure.
"The reason I'm doing this scan is to help me with motivation and focus with work. I think I'm a fairly diligent, focussed and motivated person but maybe in a few years I'd like to replay some of that in case I'm feeling tired or unmotivated or I really want to push myself on something."
Services for having brain activity recorded start at around $2,000 (￡1,200), which includes the cost of renting the MRI machine.
The procedure will involve Broussard being asked a series of 40 questions intended to provoke a specific thought or feeling. After each question there is a period of around 10 seconds, during which time his brain is scanned by the MRI machine.
The data is then archived for a future date when MMT believes the playback technology will advance to a point that it will be possible to revisit the memories on a screen in vivid detail.
"The visual reconstruction is kind of crude right now but the data is definitely there and it will get better, it's just a matter of refinement," Marks said. "That information is stored - once you've recorded that information it's there forever. In the future we'll be able to reconstruct the data we have now much better."
Marks even hopes that the technology will advance to such an extent that it will be possible for someone to revisit memories through a series of impulses sent to the brain that would reactivate the original neural processes.
"We're not even near that right now," he said. "but we are part of the way because we can record the memory. Neurotechnology's hay day is on its way."
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