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In the study, scientists hooked participants up to an fMRI brain scanner – which determines activity in different parts of the brain by measuring blood flow – and showed them images of faces. Then, using only the brain scans, the scientists were able to create images of the faces the people were looking at.
“It is mind reading,” said Alan S. Cowen, a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley who co-authored the study with professor Marvin M. Chun from Yale and Brice A. Kuhl from New York University.
“There’s a wide variation in how people’s brains work under a scanner – some people have better brains for fMRI – and so if you were to pick a participant at random it might be that their reconstructions are really good, or it might be that their reconstructions are really poor, which is why we averaged across all the participants,” Cowen said.