Have you ever felt as you forgot a word? Maybe you just forgot where to look for it in your brain! As the group of neuroscientists leaded by Alexander G. Huth claim: every word has a special place in your mind. What is more, it was proven that the patterns of the distribution of the words are similar in every human brain. If we know where the words are, it means a lot to the future of neurolinguistics. For example, the research has a potential to be used in creating a language decoder – people who suffer from motor disabilities could use this invention to communicate freely.
The brain mapping experiment took place in a neuroscience laboratory at the University of Berkeley, California. A group of seven people was listening to narrative stories from The Moth – True Stories Told Live for over two hours. The stories were compelling and easy to follow, so that the people could be focused on the used words. The brain activity was measured by magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). As Jack Galland, the head of the neuroscience laboratory says: “Our goal was to build a giant atlas that shows how one specific aspect of language is represented in the brain, in this case semantics, or the meanings of words.”
But guess what? The best thing is that the interactive brain “dictionary” can be browsed online here. Different colors reflect particular categories of the words in a given part of the brain. The groups of words often have themes, such as e.g. location, time or abstract ideas. Sometimes random meanings are gathered altogether – it all depends on the associated emotions. What is more, one word may be stored in many areas of both hemispheres at the same moment. It may be a surprise in the world of neuroscience, because it is believed that generally the left side of the brain is responsible for the language.
Can we claim that this research is an immediate start of the era of reading minds? Alexander G. Huth suggests that: “It is possible that this approach could be used to decode information about what words a person is hearing, reading, or possibly even thinking.” Maybe we will be able to read minds soon? Time will tell.