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Surprising Science

Japanese Researchers Read Thoughts before They’re Put into Words

The implications of this new research could eventually extend to giving the mute the ability to speak.

A team of Japanese scientists has taken a big step forward in the field of mind reading. 

As reported by RT, researchers led by professor Toshimasa Yamazaki of the Kyushu Institute of Technology have developed a system in which they can read brain activity and predict words before they’re spoken:

“[Researchers] asked several groups of participants of all genders and ages to recite particular words in Japanese — ‘goo,’ ‘scissors’ and ‘par.’ The common thing between them is the very similar waveforms they produced, both when spoken and left unsaid … Yamazaki’s researchers then used an EEG to measure changes in the electrical activity in the Broca’s area of the brain’s frontal lobe, which is responsible for language. Participants recited the three words as the team made measurements, including those produced right up until the moment of the word’s utterance, and immediately afterwards.

Yamazaki’s team found that they could read measurements from when the brain conceives a word to its actual utterance. By familiarizing themselves with the patterns, the researchers could predict which word the subjects were about to say. The catch, according to Rocket News, is that the researchers were only able to get that far because of the nature of the Japanese language. It’s much easier at this juncture to read vowel sounds than consonant ones, and the syllables in Japanese are amenable to that.

While this particular study focuses mostly on building a connection between sound waves and brain waves, further research could have far broader implications. For example, a machine programmed to read brain waves could then serve as an artificial voice for those who are mute or unable to speak due to injury. We’re not anywhere close to that level of sophistication, but it’s an admirable goal to shoot for.

Although the fantastical mind reading of sci-fi/fantasy is still well beyond us, the possible uses for this new and innovative research ought to serve as an apt substitute. 

Mentalism isn’t technically mind reading, explains The Amazing Kreskin, but it does take advantage of psychology and physical cues:


Image credit: VECTORWORKS_ENTERPRISE / Shutterstock


Robert Montenegro is a writer and dramaturg who regularly contributes to Big Think and Crooked Scoreboard. He lives in Washington DC and is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Twitter: @Monteneggroll. Website:


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