Who among us hasn’t wished we could read someone else’s mind, know exactly what they’re thinking? Well that’s impossible, of course, since our thoughts are, more than anything else, our own. Private, personal, unreachable. Or at least that’s what we’ve always, well, thought.
Advances in neuroscience have shown that, on a physical level, our thoughts are actually a vast network of neurons firing all across our brains. So if that brain activity could be identified and analyzed, could our thoughts be decoded? Could our minds be read? Well, a team of scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh has spent more than a decade trying to do just that.
Neuroscientist Marcel Just says technology has made it possible for the first time to see the physical makeup of our thoughts.
Dr. Just and Dr. [David] Brent began planning a pilot study to see if the scanner might reveal what is altered in the thoughts of people contemplating suicide. They reached out to Matt Nock, a Harvard professor who has studied how difficult it is for doctors and emergency rooms to know which patients are safe to send home.
Lesley Stahl: Is this the first time anybody’s looked inside the brain to see– about suicidal thoughts?
Matt Nock: Yes. This is the first study I– I have ever heard of where someone’s looked in the brain of someone who’s suicidal, who’s actively thinking about death or suicide–
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