Shopping Cart -

Your cart is currently empty.
Continue Shopping
This website use cookies and similar technologies to improve the site and to provide customised content and advertising. By using this site, you agree to this use. To learn more, including how to change your cookie settings, please view our Cookie Policy
Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines


Neuroscientists think they’re close to their holy grail: reading the human mind


EVERY TIME you blink, think or move, your brain generates electricity as individual neurons in the skull transmit information needed to make it happen. If we could detect the electrical signals produced by individual neurons, we could, in theory, read a person’s mind.

Amazing. And exceedingly difficult. The amount of electricity generated by an individual neuron transmitting a single piece of information is incredibly tiny. The brain, all 100 billion neurons of it, produces en masse about 20 watts— barely enough to power an incandescent light bulb. For decades, the best neuroscientists could do was use electroencephalography, or EEG, to detect the signals that characterized different stages of sleep, say, or the in-brain power surges brought about by epileptic seizures. And that wasn’t easy. They had to shave people’s heads, put them in a room far from any other sources of electricity and use conductive gel to stick several dozen electrodes to the skin atop their skulls.

Then, in 2007, Philip Low, while working on his Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego, invented the Sleep Parametric EEG Automated Recognition System algorithm. SPEARS gave Low the ability to create a cluster map of brain activity using only the information gleaned from one electrode—in industry terms, a “single-channel EEG.” Before Low, EEG devices that took input from just a few channels weren’t considered good for much; to get really useful data, pre-SPEARS, you had to cover someone’s skull with electrodes, impeding most everyday activity. About the only use of single-channel EEG pre-SPEARS was in the toy market, where in 2007 the Silicon Valley– based brain-computer interface technology company NeuroSky released The Adventures of NeuroBoy, a simple video game in which players could use a low-cost single-channel EEG headset to control a telekinetic protagonist. Though relatively affordable ($199), the NeuroBoy headset couldn’t mimic the precision of Low’s algorithm. Yet it was ground-breaking for another reason; it was the first consumer EEG product to use “dry electrodes”—ones that could read signals sans conductive gel.

Purchase options below
Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Newsweek International - 15th April 2016
If you own the issue, Login to read the full article now.
Single Issue - 15th April 2016
Or 499 points
Annual Digital Subscription
Only $ 0.67 per issue
Or 3399 points
Monthly Digital Subscription
Only $ 0.94 per issue
Or 399 points

View Issues

About Newsweek International

Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, the North Koreans said, wanted to resume negotiations in hopes of ending decades of hostility between the two countries. Jonathan Broder investigates why the US might be wrong about Kim Jong and his nuclear intentions.