The Quest to Read Emotions from Brain Scans

Posted on March 6, 2017

While there have been several studies on the use of MRI scans to see how our brains respond to our thoughts and emotions depending on what subjects were prompted to do, it is only recently that there has been more in-depth investigation into whether there really is a way to read our emotions from these brain scans.

In one study, a research team led by Heini Saarimaki of Aalto University in Finland found that pattern-recognition software could match volunteers’ brain scans to the emotions they were feeling at that moment. These volunteers were either asked to recall memories linked to a specific emotion, or to reflect on movie clips that were designed to evoke certain emotions. Similarly, Duke University’s Kevin LaBar and his team could correctly guess the emotions their subjects were feeling seventy-five percent of the time using scan results collected from a previous study, while these subjects were lying idly in brain scanners.

However, more research remains to be done. For instance, can we be sure that everyone’s brain registers and hence responds in the same way to sadness even when prompted using different stimuli? In other words, is one person’s sad the same as another’s? Better yet, are we still able to consistently read emotions from brain scans if these participants were not exposed to any stimuli and were just asked to think naturally? It is apparent that the answers to these questions and more remain relatively unknown, but this new development is nonetheless a fascinating, and potentially ground-breaking one.

Category(s):Academic Issues

Source material from Scientific American