Questions for “One day, computers may decode your dreams”


A rare disease broke the connections between Jan Scheuermann’s brain and muscles. This left her paralyzed from the neck down. She used her thoughts to control this robotic arm and feed herself a chocolate bar.



Before Reading:

1. How far fetched do you think it is for computers to read people’s thoughts?                 

2. What practical applications can you imagine for a mind-reading computer?              

During Reading:

1. How do neurons in the brain speak to each other?

2. In order for Jan Scheuermann to begin to control a robotic arm with her mind, where did researchers have to place sensors? How many sensors did they use?

3. Once Jan learned to control the robot arm, how would she make it reach out and pick something up?

4. What kind of superhuman simulation did Jan learn to operate after the robotic arm?

5. Why don’t implanted brain sensors last very long?

6. What technology reads brain activity through a grid of sensors on the brain’s surface?

7. What is fMRI scanning? How does it work? 

8. When researchers used computer models to read people’s minds and reproduce words they’d read, or movies they’d watched, how well did these models work?

9. Describe how Yukiyasu Kamitani recreated images people had seen, using a computer and recordings of brain activity?

10. How successful was Kamitani’s experiment?

After Reading:

1.  What are some of the ways that mind-reading computers could help people in the future? Describe two applications that would be beneficial.

2.  Are you looking forward to this technology becoming more advanced? Or does it make you uncomfortable to think about? Explain why you feel this way.